Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged with everything going on around us. We have our own chaotic schedules and never-ending to-do lists. We look on our social media feeds and news outlets and encounter doom and gloom. Violence, destruction, disease, war. Will it never end?
Recently, I was frantically plotting out my schedule – cramming in errands, house cleaning and work – and wondering how I could fit in more hours in the day. Just as I was about to reach my limit of frustration, I heard the chirp of my phone. A text message from a friend I’d not seen in a few months asking if we would be interested in having dinner and game night at their house. A fun couple’s night.
I looked at my color-coded schedule and began texting our regrets. Complaining to my husband about how we never have time to do anything fun, he pointed at my phone. “Say yes.”
All day, I thought about how much I was going to regret that decision. Laundry had yet to be completed; I hadn’t completed lesson plans; grades had to be posted; and a mountain of dishes were calling. Yet we still went. And it was exactly what I needed.
Talking about the chaos of the beginning of the semester, my friend glanced around behind her. Rather than getting frazzled with perfecting her home and being exhausted when friends arrived, she’d instead focused on creating a meal and setting out games. We were there to enjoy each other’s company and relax – no one was going to judge whether the cabinet tops had been dusted.
A little bit later, we reminisced about each of our relationships – they were celebrating 10 years of marriage; we were celebrating 10 years of being together. They shared the secret of their strength: trusting in one another and knowing that God would always provide. Again, words I needed to hear.
We’ve all heard the cliché “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Too often we attempt to juggle and stress over aspects of our lives – and the world – that we don’t have control over. The problem is that we’re living in the present. By focusing solely on my to-dos and just trying to keep my head above water, I’m only concentrating on the here and now. I’m not living my life to its fullest potential. Instead of looking ahead at the hours in front of me with dread (and often times paralysis), I should be thinking of how to make the most of what I have in the time that I have to do it.
It’s a mindset adjustment. Individually we can’t solve world problems, but working together we can be optimistic for our future. We should maintain hope and optimism about our own lives and the parts that we play in relation to the world.
In a recent TED Talk, Pope Francis said that “feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing.” If we take time to share our gratitude and think about the little blessings we’ve received, and contemplate how to share that with those around us, then we can view each day as an opportunity given to us by God.
Sometimes all it takes is for a friend to share a different perspective or share something that we need to hear. God places those moments in our lives. When we break down the chaos into manageable steps and plans, we see hope instead of frustration and discouragement. We see opportunity and love.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at email@example.com.