Alice Shirey talks this month in Leadership about being too busy to love and to bless:
I recently read a quote from Kasim Reed, the young mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. He said “Atlanta has long been known as the city that is too busy to hate .… we must also be the city not too busy to love one another.”
“Not too busy to love one another.” Seems like that applies to more than cities.
There’s another quote on my mind right now. Most of us, Ronald Rolheiser writes, are slogging through our days, “bleeding, less than whole, unconfident, depressed, going through life without a sense either of its goodness or of our own, going through life without being able to really give or experience delight.”
He puts a finger on our wound: “So much of our hunger is a hunger for a blessing. So much of our aching is the ache to be blessed. So much of our sadness comes from the fact that nobody has ever taken delight and pleasure in us.” And too often, we who long for blessing spend time in churches where everyone—even the leaders—are too busy to love or to bless.
That reminds me of something which happened the week before last.
I was in one of the contexts I’m in every week and I crossed the path of someone I’ve long greeted by name but never spoken to more than that. This time, I mentioned how good things had been in a particular aspect of our mutual context. I’d forgotten that this was in fact her responsibility. But she heard what I said as a personal compliment, an encouragement. The gratitude with which she received it jolted me. Here was someone who was desperate for a blessing. As soon as she thanked me, she began to open up about the lack of affirmation she had been feeling from others concerning this issue.
Though this was no more than a two-minute conversation, it effected a paradigm shift for me. I have the power with my words to speak blessing, even over those with whom I have no prior connection. And people are so hungry for affirmation. They are struggling on, ‘bleeding, less than whole…going through life without a sense either of its goodness or of [their] own’. And people, other people, people like me and like you are often too busy to bless. Or too busy slogging through our own days, ourselves bleeding and less than whole.
When I next saw this lady in the corridor, I reverted to my usual ‘hello’ and smile. I’m an introvert, after all. We don’t speak much unless the context and topic is right and the relationship established enough to make that feel safe. (When all that’s in place, I’m reliably told that you think we’re extroverts from the amount we talk!)
Anyway, digressions aside, this lady has never greeted me by name. I always assumed she didn’t know my name – why should she? But in this most recent corridor greeting, she used my name. And as I heard it, I reflected again on the power of a blessing to bring people together.
I never want to be too busy to love, too busy to bless. It’s one of my big fears actually, that my tendency towards busyness would overwhelm me, that I would default to the City girl efficiency which annihilates task at a sometimes-frightening rate whilst holding people at bay. I see it in myself when I’m under pressure, a subtle creep again recently towards the individual drive which wants to ‘just get it done’, a drift away from the slower plays of working in team, of walking slowly through the halls, of an un-busy heart.
Since then, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I could be more intentional on the days when I am with people. Intentional to bless. To search for the good. To speak a word of encouragement. To look someone in the eye and tell them something, just a sentence or two, that I appreciate about them. To take a moment to go slow, to read the unspoken pain and stress in their face and their gestures, to listen and offer empathy.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find Jesus there, ahead of me already in the act of blessing.