Long Lines: It’s mandatory recess. When I’m stuck in an extended and slow-moving queue, I usually close my eyes and drop into meditation or prayer. Once, at the post office, I was in a deeply relaxed state when I heard a woman say, “Can you believe this? There are only two people behind the counter! This place doesn’t know the first thing about service.” I opened my eyes to face the woman who was ahead of me in line. “I’m sorry,” I apologized, “I didn’t notice. I was praying.” She looked startled, then shook her head, rolled her eyes and turned away. I returned to my conversation with God. Later, as she left the post office, she waved goodbye, smiling. There are times when I feel jammed for time and can’t seem to muster patience, but when I relax into accepting the way things are, long lines are an unexpected respite in my very active schedule. It’s also great fun to chat with the other people in line as if they were old friends, not strangers. We are all related, after all.
Terrible Childhoods: Those early years, however painful, formed the person you have become. If you love the person that you are now, you cannot help but appreciate whatever or whoever contributed to your journey to maturity. So give thanks, with integrity, for your terrible childhood. Being awake to how it served you can keep you from creating awful childhood experiences for someone else.
Badges: For nearly 20 years, I’ve approached police officers in restaurants or other benign environments and asked if I could talk with them. If they agree, here’s what I say: “Thank you for putting your life on the line everyday to protect mine. I appreciate all that you do to keep all of us safe.” The word courage is rooted in the French word for heart. I am grateful that so many law enforcement officers have the courage to live the pledge “to protect and serve.” I refuse to take them for granted.
Traffic: Usually, my radio is off or locked onto National Public Radio as I drive around town. But when traffic thickens, I often spin the dial between The Eagle, KWOD and KSFM 102.5 and sing loudly until traffic flows freely again. Such silliness! Other times, I turn the radio off and watch the other drivers emoting. Traffic jams are a great place to practice listening to myself without adopting someone else’s feelings.
Difficult People: Bless those relationships that send us sobbing into the arms of friends, inspire us to drop to our knees in prayer or force us onto the couch of a friendly therapist. Difficult people are agents of change. They shake us out of complacency so we are forced to move on or grow a spine. We can take a stand or look deeply inside and admit that what they’ve revealed about us is true, even if we don’t like it. God moves in mysterious ways to refine our egos. Perhaps God is moving through the difficult people in your life to reach you.
Stress: Think of it as espresso for the ego. It’s high-octane (and sometimes high-octave) motivational fuel for overachievers and people who want to be just like them. But it’s also true that stress keeps darkness in the world. Without it, people might quiet themselves enough to discern their life’s true work and move toward it, using genuine love to motivate themselves instead of abuse. But that, of course, would change the world, and then where would we be?