You know those days when nothing seems to go your way? It’s like the world is out to get you. You wake up late, burn your tongue on your morning coffee, cut yourself shaving and forget to pack you lunch. And because you’re already unhappy, nothing is going to make the day better so work is a drag. You don’t want to interact with anyone but indulging your misery alone isn’t helping either. You’re just in a bad mood and that’s that.
That was my Monday. None of what I listed actually happened to me. However, I woke up with a bad attitude, for no easily identifiable reason. Then I received a disappointing email from AltLink. On top of that, I kept receiving “no” RSVPs for my going-away dinner next Saturday. Whomp whomp.
Sitting all alone, my thoughts began to spiral into a depressing hole as I considered canceling the dinner. I work from home on Mondays so I had the entire day to mope around the house feeling sorry for myself. I just wanted to crawl into bed and wallow in self-pity the rest of the day.
But I couldn’t. That evening I had an event to host. As a Cares team for Apartment Life, Rachel and I host three events every month. Yesterday was our seventy-sixth event, approximately. It was called “Hot Dogs with your Hot Dog.” Basically it was a hot dog bar for humans, with chili and cheese toppings and treats for any passing dogs. I’m nothing if not dutiful, so I shut my work computer, turned on an audio book and began boiling 100 hot dogs. Still my thoughts swirled around my problems and what I needed to do and what I wanted to happen and how I was going to make it happen.
By the time 6:30pm rolled around, Rachel and I had everything set up outside and people started to arrive. I did not feel like interacting with the people who came to get hot dogs. I did not want any intrusion to interrupt my thoughts. But thankfully, for my own sake, that was impossible.
More and more people began to show up. People really like hot dogs! And I started to smile as I saw familiar happy faces. I began having conversations about other people’s days; they allowed me glimpses into their lives as we conversed. While I made sure the ice was filled, refilled forks and helped a child fill her plate, the day’s depression began to dissipate. My self-involvement and concern turned outward and my attitude transformed.
When I serve others my self-importance diminishes as I realize that I am not the center of the universe. The story does not revolve around me. One of my Peace Corps applicants spoke about this. She had lost her only son in a car accident. Following his death, she and her husband went through a difficult divorce. She quit her job and began volunteering at a soup kitchen. She told me that it was only through pouring herself out to others that she found peace. When I am only concerned for myself, then my problems seem insurmountable at times. As I stare at them unblinkingly, they become bigger and bigger until they cloud over my vision and I can no longer see anything else. Romans 12:3 reads, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Even when I think myself with self-pity, I am positioning myself as more important than others in my own mind. When my focus turns from myself to others, my problems move to the periphery and become much more manageable and insignificant.
In Galatians 6:9a, Paul says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good”. I say do good to overcome weariness. Service to others, and ultimately to the Lord, is what keeps me grounded. It puts life into perspective.