Monday, August 30, 2010

700 times

There is a man who lives on my street named on Jose. He has some sort of mental illness resulting in, most notably, a severe speech impediment. Every day he walks down the street to the carniceria on the corner to buy a coke. And he does this same walk probably three times a day. Every time I see him we have the following conversation:
Me: Hello
awkward pause
Me: What are you doing?
J: Goin for a walk.
Me: It's a nice day for a walk (I say this regardless of the weather)
J: Yeah. You?
Me: I'm (respond with some casual, goin to work, reading, etc)
J: Oh
another awkward pause until after several moments
Me: Well, have a nice walk
J: ok. Bye
Me: Bye

Jose & I have been having this same conversation for two years. Almost every day....that means I've had the exact same conversation approximately 700 times.

The only time we had a different conversation was just after we first moved in. The garbage company for the area had changed and was going around the neighborhood dropping off garbage cans at each house (there is a back house on our lot that can't be seen from the street.) As I was inside one day, I heard a commotion from out front and went to see what was going on. The garbage men were pulling away from our house, having left the necessary garbage cans for one house and Jose was running after the truck shouting at them. The men in the truck shouted back at him telling him to get away and leave them alone. I realized quickly he was trying to ensure we had enough garbage cans. I ran out front and called to the men on the truck, letting them know what Jose was trying to communicate but couldn't. The men smiled, dropped off a few more cans, and drove away. Jose looked at me for a second, then walked over and gave me a huge hug. I told him thank you and went to return inside....he watched me go the whole way.

I wonder how much of life is spent the same way, how many thing I do 700 times without any break in the pattern, routine, or content. I'm pretty sure there are dozens: diapers changed, showers taken, teeth brushed, stamps put on letters, cars filled with gas, checks deposited, checks written, hugs given to friends, kisses given to my husband, old shoes thrown away, old underwear turned into rags, laundry folded, sleepy prayers mumbled as a I slip into sleep. Compared to the number of things I've only done once, or even twice, been married, flown half way around the world alone, interviewed for a full time job, had a son...I would have to say the bulk of life ends up being repetitive.

We are creatures of habit, we do look for stability and that stability is so often marked by the same routines. Everyone knows the seat you sit in on the first day of class is where you'll sit for the rest of the quarter, that the meals you cook will essentially go through a rotation of the norm, that the way you drive to work will be the same almost every day, and that the features that marked your life when you were a child will in some way continue to mark your life until it ends. Perhaps this repetition is what makes us able to explore. Without some sort of ground you can't build a structure.

I think the majority of my life, up to this point, has been full of Jose conversations with a smattering of garbage truck days. And now, in my mid-twenties, life has reached a point where I know the roles I am filling now are the roles I will be filling for at least the next twenty years, if not the rest of my life: mother, wife, friend, sister, & daughter. And with the roles set, I find myself wanting to specifically and intentionally remember the things I'm passionate about in order to weave them into the fabric of my daily life.

A friend told me the other day she came to the conclusion long ago she wants her life to be lived based not on what she's against, but what she's for (we were discussing the interaction of faith and politics - namely the civil rights issue of same sex marriage). While at a glance it seems obvious, I think there is a tendency in humanity at large to live against something rather than for something. And not everything we live against is bad - poverty, injustice, deception, idiocy, disease. Really many of those things are an attempt to leave for their opposition - needs met, justice, honesty, intelligence, health. But I think the life of those who live for something is markedly different than those who live against something, and markedly more rewarding. Because when we live against something, we never succeed but when we live for something we inevitably succeed in some small way almost every time we put our mind to it.

So, what I am for? What pursuits will mark my day to day? What triumphs around me will I see 700 times because I put my mind to it? 700 smiles from my son, 700 goodnight kisses from my husband, 700 'I love you's' from the girls I work with, 700 meals given to friends and family in our home, 700 favors for the people I love. And triumph definitely means one in history has fully triumphed without sacrifice. But when we live for something, instead of against it, the sacrifices are a choice, not a casualty. And maybe that makes them a bit easier.

These are my musings for this Sunday afternoon...the only definite conclusion being I want my life to be lived for something(s) not against.


  1. hmmm... interesting thoughts. This matches a conversation that Don Spears and I have been having. What are Christians for? We seem to be defined by what we are against.

    I'd like us to be defined by what we are for.

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  4. Excellent, Sarah! Insightful, deeply thought provoking. Encouraging to embrace my sacrifices because of the something we believe in. Thanks for this. Charmingly written, as well!


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