Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: December 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Invisible Work

At some point, long ago, JJ and I had a discussion on household labor, in the midst of which, I asked him if he believed he had a personal Drinking Glass Fairy. Every night the man fills a glass of water and sets it on his bedside to quench his middle-of-the-night thirsts. Yet, when he would arrive the following night with a fresh glass of water, the glass from the night before would have mysteriously vanished. Sometimes, I will admit, the fairy was tired and the night-before-glass only made it as far as the bathroom countertop.

It’s not necessarily his fault that he had never considered how the glasses magically moved from bedside to kitchen – let alone from countertop, to dishwasher, to cupboard, to table and back to dishwasher again. These things happen in an invisible fashion.

This is the nature of most of my work: invisible work. In a day’s time, I can complete a lot of work, none of it noticeable unless I suddenly stop doing it. Laundry magically appears fresh and clean, meals materialize out of no where, the pantry holding the contents for everyone’s favorite snack (unless, however, I forget).

It could be the nature of my current situation, the work of home tending, which makes it seem so invisible. Have no overseer, no boss with the power to fire me (believe me, I’ve tried). But  most workplaces have their own version of invisible work, too. Those meaningful questions for students don’t magically appear without the invisible work of pedagogy; sales ride the tails of the invisible work of understanding human nature and connecting with needs and wants. We all have our own version of the work no one notices unless it’s left undone.

We’re coming off a season of the most intense invisible work of the year, IMHO. The understanding of our loved ones, the seeking out of perfect embodiments of our feelings and appreciation – this happens behind the scenes.  Then – and let us all bend our knee – the Amazon Prime begins to happen. These little elves run a website so full of invisible miracles, and then with 1-Click powers and the Holy Spirit of UPS, brown packages arrive on our doorsteps in two days or less. If you want to talk about invisible work, let’s salute the gal (or guy) who decides how each truck, train and plane will move about the goods for the Man in Brown to deliver.

My friend Abby told me last year she had stayed up late on Christmas Eve, staging the scene, making a magical Christmas morning for her children. I was in awe (and a little dumbfounded – my Aim Low Parenting approach kept me from ever really considering what the living room looked like). Thanks to her invisible inspiration and a little of our own invisible work, I watched my oldest creep out to the living room in the early hours and, by the light of the Christmas tree, examine the evidence of Santa’s visit. It was a moment made for movies. Of course, he would have found the moment magical even if I hadn’t stood the gifts on their side as opposed to stacking them and shoving them under the tree. These bits of invisible work make our lives better, brighter and more beautiful.

And now, today, we return to the invisible work of feeding people meals and finding receipts and refereeing children. Know this, my friend: though the work seems invisible, you are not. I know, no matter how effortless you make it appear, the thought, the heart, even the sweat that goes into making your invisible work transform your home, work and relationships.

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Someone is coming to town

Is Santa real? they might ask someday. Well, perhaps not as you think. But there once was a man who loved us so much that he came to where we live. He arrived on his visit in the middle of the night and most of the world went without knowing what had happened until he left again. We don’t know if the red suit is real, but we know what he looks like. His coming sparks a new spirit in each of us.

Yes, my children. There is a man who visits every person in the whole world in one night. He comes from “up north” to where we live and when we wake to this reality, our world will change. He brings a bit of his reality with him and leaves it in the living room. There is so much goodness in the place he calls home and he delights to share it with us. He packs up what he can and then asks us to look beyond the packaging and the ribbons to see it.

Once these gifts fall into your heart and not just into your hands, you will find that you cannot wait to unwrap these things because the joy is multiplied when you share it with someone else. You practically give it away. And yet, find yourself with more, just as this man will return home and take the whole world with him.

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14, The Message

Someone is coming to town, my friends. Tonight. He sneaks in, not by chimney but by a quiet entrance through the barn or the garage. He comes not with a big sack of toys, but with gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And if we’re willing, we can wake to a home full of gifts with every new morning.

 

***Originally posted December 24, 2014 and still a favorite. 

 

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On Being Helpful

It’s my fault, really. I bought the children’s probiotics in the shapes of “fun animals.” Thus we need to pick through them every morning for matching giraffes. Every single child must do this. Rue the day that one of them doesn’t get to rifle through for their own vitamins.

Like today. Rue.

The oldest was trying to be helpful, dispersing the “fishies” (because the first time I purchased children’s probiotics, they were in the shape of fish. Now we’re eating jungle animals, but we still seem to have “fishies.”) but Miss M wanted to get her own. She refused the fishies in front of her. No! Never! I shall not! She insisted. 

During the pursuant intervention, I realized a few things about both the situation and the children.

  1. I set a precedent with a one-person-dispersing standard and the oldest was simply trying to follow the rules. He is a rule follower, like his mother, and in his mind, anyone bucking that system needs called out.  Resolved: Asinine rules for the sake of one person’s (read: MY) convenience clearly aren’t helpful.
  2. The oldest wanted to be helpful. That was his true heart. Allow me to do this for you, sweet sister. It is helpful for everyone if I just take control of this. 
  3. The sister didn’t want his help. This help, in fact, was a tad insulting. She was perfectly capable of getting her own damn vitamins, even the two-year-old can do that, thank you very much.

While his heart was pure, eldest child inadvertently sent a message to his junior: you cannot do this. You need my help. I am the capable, wise, giver-of-the-things. His helpfulness overruled her humanness. The helping became the priority, not the person whom he wanted to serve. In that moment, his actions, done in the name of help, actually hurt her sense of self and well-being.

I recently read The Active Life by Parker Palmer. Though not the premise of the book, he mentioned in passing how the best way we can help a person is to simply ask. Ask how we can help, if we can help. You preserve a certain sense of dignity  and worth of a person when you ask permission to serve.

So, this became the morning’s lesson: the oldest is to simply ask. May I get you your fishies this morning? Would that be helpful? This gives her the chance to respond and receive gracefully, or politely decline. To her, we began to instill that receiving help is not an indicator of your own worth or abilities, but sometimes someone’s good and pure heart. Some famous writer, (I’d like to attribute it to Brennan Manning, but he’s not alive to defend himself in case others disagree, so please add salt) wrote that if we cannot receive from our fellow man, how will we ever have the humility to receive from God? In our culture, it’s not common to see a graceful reception of unsolicited help. We hardly solicit it, even when it’s most needed.

All this thought on asking took me to God, as is my habit. God so rarely forces his help upon us. I believe he sees us each as capable human beings, letting us daily get our own fishies. Perhaps he would love to help us, if we were quiet enough to hear him ask, Can I do this for you?

Jesus said more than once, “you do not have because you do not ask.” I think this falls into the category of gracefully receiving help. Our willingness to let others do on our behalf. We’re such a bootstrappy culture, fixated on our own drive and self-preservation that often the idea of allowing others to intervene on our behalf provokes anxiety or even shame. We feel perceived as not good enough or capable.  The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter.

Whether we can or cannot, help is usually coming from a good heart. Yet that good heart must not force its goodness on others.

May we be willing to receive the gracious love of others as they try to be helpful. May we not perceive it as an indicator of our own worth or ability. And may we help lovingly, graciously, and honorably – by first asking instead of insisting.

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