Recently, while organizing a file drawer, I found an article on procrastination, which I wrote for a magazine in 2007. I wondered, “Am I still the best worst procrastinator in the world or at least in Holland, Michigan? Or have I destroyed that archenemy: “Procrastination”? What do you think? ~ Karen
First a look back to my 2007 confession:
Like Moses, resisting God’s directive at the burning bush, I avoid, put off, and excuse myself from potentially unpleasant encounters with people who are hurting. Therefore, I don’t know why I agreed to become a member of my church’s Congregational Care Team. Sometimes I think God eases us into some situations without our full logical approval. Nevertheless, my first assignment was contacting Joan, who had cancer. Contacting Joan became a personal struggle. My archenemy, procrastination, successfully reigned for days.
Finally, “The Day” arrived, and I knew that I must do it—I had to phone Joan! So, I set the timer on the microwave, and promised myself that when the buzzer sounded, I would make the call! I did, but not before offering what had to be the most urgent prayer of the month, if not the year. “Oh God,” I prayed, “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what to say. What will I say if she starts crying, or if she is angry, or if…Please, God, help me!” (Actually, I also hoped that Joan was at the grocery store, so that she wouldn’t pick up the phone.)
So, with my heart beating aerobically, I dialed Joan’s number and, as her phone started ringing, I started counting—one ring, two, three. I had told myself that if Joan didn’t answer in six rings I could hang up and try again another day,but…she answered! I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember what she said. She told me how much it hurt, not the cancer so much as the way her friends seem to avoid her and disappear. “My friends don’t call much anymore,” she said, “and in the grocery store even acquaintances avoid me. That hurts a lot!”
Forty-five minutes later, I hung up the phone and whispered a heartfelt thanks to our faithful God. (The Lord says to each of us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”—2 Corinthians 12:9.) Joan had been very receptive to my call, and with only an occasional question or comment from me, she had shared her thoughts and her feelings. She had appreciated the phone call.
During the following twelve months I contacted Joan five times. At the most, I offered five small and quick gestures of caring: maybe two phone calls, one plant, one visit to her home and one visit to the hospital. That’s it!
On September 5, 1988, Joan died. As I was pouring coffee at the reception following the funeral service, Joan’s handsome sons gave me a big hug and thanked me for being such a good friend to their mom. I was speechless. I was tempted to say, “Oops…there’s been a mistake here. I only offered your mom a few, quick, tokens of caring.”
My confession 35 years later:
Yes, I still procrastinate, but I am slowly becoming a recovering procrastinator. What has helped me say, “TODAY” not “SOMEDAY:” Ten years ago, Matthew Kelly, asked in his book, The Rhythm of Life: “Do you want your life to be filled with peace, joy, love and a sense of fulfillment?” I practically yelled, “Yes!” Then Matthew advised, “When you wake up in the morning ask yourself two questions: “Who needs my attention and care today?” and “How can I best care for that person today?” Then I put that assignment at the top of my to-do list, and I (usually) do it! Sometimes I still use my microwave timer as my accountability partner. Sometimes, I post several 8×10 sheets of paper with the person’s name in bold letters which reminds me to stop and take the time to care.
Learning from experiences such as the one with Joan, I have realized that our caregiving doesn’t have to be polished and perfect and profound. God takes each sincere, small, clumsy gesture of compassion and turns it into something big, bright, and beautiful.