I was listening to a mental health professional in Sunday school who was talking about her work with the homeless. She made the comment that in her 20 years of work she had found that the best results she had in helping people was when she worked with them at their own pace rather than hers.
I thought about this in church Sunday while partially listening to the annual stewardship sermon (yes it sounded just like the ones I have heard over the last 30 years). I would venture to guess that unless you are retired, or independently wealthy that we all at some point during the day operate at someone else’s pace other than our own. In the case of the homeless, most of the people this lady works with have been homeless for years. They have developed certain patterns, certain means of survival. For most, those patterns do not include trust, trust of others or the outside world. Her goal is to move them out of the woods or off the street into a controlled environment with a roof over their head. A place where they can acclimate back into society, and get treatment, if needed, for dependency, mental health issues or both.
Her point was this, she worked at their pace which took time, sometimes a frustratingly long time. But think about how quickly each of us can build walls, form opinions and define truths. This presidential election has offered a wonderful example of how otherwise sane and rational people can jump into the deep end and no amount of calm or truth speak will change the views they have formed.
When I ride my bicycle I am very conscious of my pace. If I am going on a short, flat thirty mile ride I might open it up a little. But on a sixty mile “lumpy” ride (code for hilly) I need to pace myself. I need to have enough legs to not only take me out but also get me back. It can be a very delicate balance. I have had rides where I felt great in the beginning and like crap at the end or started off with “heavy legs” but rode through it and felt fine in the end.
In the perfect world we would all dictate the pace that is most comfortable for us. But the world isn’t perfect. We have spouses, and bosses, and kids, and rent. Cars breakdown, appointments are broken, grass needs cutting, leaves need blowing and football games need to be watched, they really do.
As my years have passed I have noticed that the world has gotten faster. Instant gratification has replaced good things happen to those that wait. We feel guilty just sitting, staring out into space. The list of the “things” we could be doing or should be doing runs through our head like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I would suspect most of us relinquish our spot on the front porch and get busy doing whatever it is we think we should be doing.
When my kids were very little I would “make” them sit on the front steps of our house with me and watch the world go by. As they got older this became more difficult to do. But two weeks ago, my oldest and I were sitting on the back steps of the new home she had just purchased late in the evening. We had put in a full days work of cleaning and moving and now we were done, sharing a beer watching the sun drift down. In the quiet of that moment I asked her “What are we doing?” and she responded, twenty-two years later “Watching the world go by.” Yes we were.