We had finally reached the end of what is typically one of the busiest weeks of the year.
It was now finally Saturday, and we had been gone all day long at one of our son’s soccer games out of town. The kitchen was a picture of chaos, with coolers and leftovers from our packed lunch sitting in the perfect place for me to trip over while I tried to throw together a late dinner. The crusty dishes from breakfast were still piled high in the sink. Fruit gnats had found our compost bucket, which, I might add, was beginning to smell nasty and fermented. The tomato sauce splattered all over the stove when I poured it into the pot to make spaghetti.
In the meantime, I was moving super slowly. I felt very, very tired. Plus, for some unknown reason, my left knee – the knee I’ve had trouble with off and on for 22 years since I injured it in high school – was causing me a lot of pain. I wrapped ice around it while I cut up veggies for dinner and just kept moving. Slowly I focused on finishing dinner, getting everyone fed, and getting the kitchen in decent shape so that I could just go to bed.
Oh yes, and I also concentrated very hard on feeling sorry for myself. All I could think of was, “I’m sooo tired. My knee hurts. I just want to go to bed.” I couldn’t have smiled if you would have paid me, and I really didn’t feel like answering questions or talking to my family.
And then, someone showed up at our door.
Oh yeah. I had forgotten that we had told a young friend of ours he could spend the night with us. But there he was, and what could I do but find some sort of pleasant look to greet him with? I pulled a lopsided smile out from way down deep inside my toes, and welcomed him in.
This friend of ours has some disabilities and special needs, which meant that heading to bed any time soon just wasn’t going to happen. But he is incredibly delightful to have around, and he needed to be served.
I invited him into the kitchen with me (scooting the coolers out of the way as best I could) and began to serve him dinner and visit with him. He shared a fun story about something that had happened earlier in the day, which made me laugh in spite of myself.
Several minutes later, as I fed him and helped him with various needs, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite as tired as I had been. I had forgotten all about my aching knee. The mess in the kitchen didn’t look so terrible. And in fact, I was feeling quite joyful and energetic.
This young man has taught me many life lessons, and this time was no exception: If you’re down, feeling sorry for yourself, and otherwise choosing to throw yourself a pity party…consider who you might serve. Looking outward toward meeting the needs of others will take the focus off of “self” every time.
Disclaimer: Obviously, we all need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves before we serve others, otherwise we have nothing left to give. The point of this post isn’t suggesting that you give of yourself until you pass out. The point is to stop feeling sorry for yourself. And if you’re having a hard time doing that, find someone to serve. It works every time.