We were running late....again.
The school has a new attendance policy this year, and we’re already on the naughty list for being late one too many times. Okay, probably twenty too many times, but who’s counting. Well, the school is, obviously, but that’s not the point.
The point is, we were already behind schedule getting out the door this morning when a kid somehow flung a cup of soda (leftover on the table from the night before [insert snarky eye-roll emoji here]) all over the kitchen. Like, ALL OVER. Said child took time we didn’t have to “clean it up,” but after he left I stepped in a big puddle of sticky soda on the floor and looked up to find it also amply splattered on the blinds. And pooled in the crevices of the computer monitor. And peppering a once-clean, folded pile of shirts.
Then, my daughter spilled a tiny bit of milk from her bowl of cereal onto the table and quickly got a napkin to clean it up all by herself, which was sweet. She went the extra mile and wet a washcloth to wipe up the spill thoroughly, trying so hard to be helpful. For some reason, though, when she walked over to put the washcloth in the dirty hamper, she brought her very full bowl of cereal with her, and you can probably guess the rest. I helped her and the remaining cereal back to the table before cleaning up the mess.
There were Cheerios everywhere. In the pile of dirty clothes, in the folds of a box that was patiently awaiting a trip downstairs, in the cracks of a coffee-maker that was destined for storage, and all over the floor. Did I mention we’re also experiencing a systemic tiny ant problem? So there’s that. I got down on my knees, started to corral the spill with a paper towel, and began to cry.
The messes are constant. The need is overwhelming. And it’s not even 8:30am.
“I just can’t do this anymore,” I thought.
In the midst of my weariness, I heard a still small voice say, “you were never supposed to be able to.”
You were never supposed to be able to do this—clean up this mess, manage this frustrating morning, move through this life, any of it—on your own. By yourself. I suppose if you could, why would you need God? Or people?
The truth hit me square in the face and I paused. Tears pooled in the rims of my eyes as I inhaled a second chance and exhaled my inadequacies, at least for this moment.
“God, I need help.”
Sometimes the smallest prayers are the most powerful ones.
I’d just laid the kids down for their afternoon nap when I smelled it—the distinct odor of something aflame. A wave of panic washed over me, thinking maybe I’d bumped the stove burner and caught the stack of plastic plates atop it on fire. I was afraid of that possibility when I set them there in the lunchtime flurry but not concerned enough that I bothered to move them. Well, crap.
I couldn’t see the stove from the spot on the couch where I’d just plopped myself in relief, but I quickly remembered the open window next to me and figured the smell must be coming from outside. It didn’t have the charming nostalgia of a campfire, that’s for sure. Maybe it was burning plastic? Or rubber? It was hard to tell. Perhaps a neighbor was burning something in their backyard, and since I’m unashamedly nosy, I decided to step outside and investigate.
Opening the front door, I found the entire neighborhood in a light fog. It was definitely something bigger than a campfire, but I still couldn’t see anything except an ambulance and police car parked a ways down the road, which I eventually concluded to be unrelated. The odor was intense, and I briefly contemplated running back inside and closing all the windows, but it was too late. There wasn’t another person in sight, though—did anyone else even notice the world was on fire?
Before turning to walk back inside, I saw this sign in the window of my neighbor’s house: HELP WANTED. I couldn’t resist taking a picture. This is one of the things I love about the city—at our core, we all struggle with the same stuff, but the people of the city have no qualms about putting it all out there for everyone to see. If we were honest, wouldn’t we all have the same sign in our own front window?
When I saw her the next day, I told her I loved her sign. She laughed and said, “well, it started out as a joke, but then I decided to leave it there.” We chuckled as I told her I should put one up, too. She went on with a smile, “Wouldn’t you know, though, I haven’t had a single person respond to the advertisement. Not one. I mean, I can’t say that I’m surprised, but can you believe it?”
Sadly, I can.
What these walls and floors and relationships and puddles of spilled milk would tell of our need for help, but we fail to ask. We ignore the “help wanted” signs stitched on our own souls and walk past the ones hanging in our neighbor’s window. You may not find yourself on the floor sobbing over spilled milk for the millionth time, but I bet life finds you on your knees grieving something. If not today, then soon.
The sign that hangs on the window of your heart—the one that tells the realest truth—what does it say?
What if you were bold enough to put it out there for others to see? (straight up ghetto-style front window display optional)
What if you were braver still to knock on our neighbor’s door and simply say, “I’m here for you today. How can I help?”
Sometimes the smallest acts of courage are the most powerful ones.
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