The book club I’m part of has one very convenient feature: two of our members are Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library librarians. They label and check out our books for us, and when book club is over, they gather them up and return them. So last month, when it happened that neither librarian could attend, we all looked at each other blankly and asked ourselves, “How will the books get back?” Lisa volunteered to take them.
There was no particular reason that Lisa should have been the one to do it. The city is small and the library is relatively centrally located. Lisa is a lawyer, with the workload that entails, while (as far as I can tell) I’m not the only one with a more stay-at-home schedule. But neither is it surprising. This is, in fact, the third blog post I know of which mentions her willingness to go out of her way to do something for others. And after she recommended me for a temp job at her company, I got to meet her coworkers, all of whom, when they found out I knew her, immediately commented on what a lovely and special person she is.
In fairness to myself, it was on the tip of my tongue to offer before she beat me to it. But the fact remains that I hesitated, and in that moment when she offered to help and I didn’t, I realized something about contributing to the world around me that I hadn’t quite accepted before.
It’s never going to be convenient.
My Facebook friends (for irony, see previous post) will know that we adopted a puppy a few weeks ago. A month in which I signed two new clients, tripled my workload and also temped more than a full-time week, while we hosted eight Airbnb guests, had a friend visit for a week and family come down for the long weekend, was Not A Good Time to take on a new commitment, especially one as demanding as an untrained puppy.
But, partly because we already knew and loved him; partly because we’ve been talking about getting Pearl a brother for five years and she’s already a little too old to want one and it’s now or never; partly because of that moment at the book club, I said… “Let’s do it.” The moment is not always there when you want it, so if you want it, you have to take it when it’s there.
We told our contractor we’d have him for dinner once we finished the bathroom. That was in January. We keep telling ourselves, “We’re so busy; not this week, not this month.” But what are we talking about, really? It’s a dinner. A few hours to clean, two or three hours to eat. Probably three, knowing how much he likes to talk. Maybe four. But are we saying that in a week, a month, we don’t have four hours for the sake of keeping our word and building connection?
Because that’s what we’re really talking about. Taking the books back to the library is a small thing, a pointless thing, even – except that it’s a way to serve others, to add value, to build connection. Taking on a puppy adds richness to our lives (and his, considering how he was raised) even with the temporary sleep-deprivation. Having friends to dinner creates memories that far outweigh the memories of how busy or overwhelmed we felt going into it.
There’s never a good time to take on a new commitment. On the other hand, when is it not a good time to strengthen connections and add richness to life?