Too often I get swept away in the current of our “to-do list.” Unfortunately, the unintended casualty can be experiences and relationships that are more meaningful and have deeper value than vacuuming and grocery shopping. No doubt many of you can relate. Of course the answer is more challenging than simply foregoing the list. You certainly can’t just decide not to pay the bills, take out the trash or refill the water softener. Well you could, but the results would ultimately end up being even more time consuming and consequential.
I do have an actual list. Not just a “remember to buy milk, water the plants and recharge the iphone list.” This list is two columns on a full page and includes things Brent and I dream about doing some day and projects I know very well won’t get done anytime soon. Do you husbands feel sorry for Brent at this point? Well, he does assure me that he’s actually grateful for my gifts in organization and list making even if sometimes it feels a little overwhelming. Admittedly it can seem overwhelming to me at times too, but having it down on paper also helps lift some of the weight off our collective shoulders. At the same time there’s something valuable in us communicating about our dreams and goals.
So, as I gazed at the list a couple months ago, I went ahead and purchased some half-priced riverboat rides online. Had no idea when we’d fit this in since our weekends were so packed, but I knew it would “force” us to get out and do something out of the ordinary. Besides, being on a boat is on my “favorite things to do list.”
Then on a beautiful Saturday morning a few weeks ago, we spontaneously put the list away, headed to Harriet Island and boarded the Betsey Northrup. We learned some local history and met a lovely woman who graciously shared her story that has stuck with me ever since. While her family members were busily taking photos on deck, she teared up, gazing out at the Mississippi. She said it reminded her of “home,” Burma (Myanmar) on one side of the river and Thailand on the other. Soldiers had burned down her village, driving them into the jungle. She and her husband spent the next 20 years in a refugee camp with their growing family. It was obvious that her audible sigh of relief was an understatement as she expressed gratitude for the peace that has come since moving to the United States.
Such a short interchange, but deeply meaningful, I think for both of us. She touched my hand as she asked for a photo with me. We waved as we parted, knowing this was one of those exchanges to remember. I knew I would. Gratitude filled me for living in this imperfect, but blessed and beautiful country. And thankful that this dear woman and her family are now in a much better place.
So we go on trying to balance lists and life, realizing there is freedom in getting done what needs to be done, but also recognizing that the list will never be complete. Just when two items get checked off, three more find their way on. Lord help me to listen to you and set aside the dusting when you have a better opportunity. I don’t want to miss the moments and the people you intend for us to meet.