Friday, October 11, 2013

Feel the Money, Part Two: “Waiting for Godot”

          It’s Sunday again, and I only have a few more hours left to pay it forward, to give the $50 to someone. During the week, I have been to the gas station, the grocery store, and even a local Walmart, but I have not found the person I am saving this money for. I stood at the cash registers, walked the aisles and parking lots, talked to those around me, but haven’t felt led to give it yet.

          Church is over, so I head to Target in Viera. I know that I am not really in the best area to find someone who needs the money more than I still do, but I have to try. I feel like I might be judged if I don’t give it away before the next meeting. The preacher recently taught the parable where the third servant hid the money in the ground rather than using it, and I feel like someone might compare me to that servant and say that I am wasting money, wasting time. Unaware that I am creating my own stress, fears and worries swamp me, and I think, maybe I shouldn’t be trusted with the money after all? All I have to do is walk up to someone and give it to them, pay for their groceries, or buy their gas.
          Lexi points out someone, and I again walk the aisles and hover near the cash registers. Nothing but families with two parents, single women holding a cup of Starbucks coffee, or men buying a few items. No one that feels right for me to give it to.
I notice that everyone, like I normally do, is moving so quickly. Rush up to the counter, pile everything on the conveyor belt, load the bags into the cart, swipe the card, rush away. I don’t see anyone using cash, and no one pauses long enough for me to smile or say hi.
          I don’t want to simply use the money and move on. I want it to mean something. I want to know that it has blessed someone. I want to feel not just the money but also the results. Is that part of the lesson?! We rush through life, swiping our life away on all of these things that we don’t always use and definitely don’t take the time to appreciate. However, when we slow down and use cash and take our time, we can connect with others as well as consider what we are buying, why we are buying it, and what it will bring us. We can live in a state of appreciation.
          When I received my deposit earlier in the week, I paid my bills and then wrote myself a check with the left over money for food and gas. I took the cash and placed it in the Dave Ramsey envelopes, and I have to say that I definitely feel the money more. In past weeks, I would have spent almost all of the money over the weekend and then been lost and even more anxious the rest of the time until the next pay day. This time, I was intensely conscious of how much cash I had left in my gas and food envelope, and I still have what I intended to save for next week, which helps me not feel so stressed and scared.
Just this week a devotional passage encouraged me to follow God’s plan, and on the radio, Chris Tomlin sang:
Where You go, I'll go
Where You stay, I'll stay
When You move, I'll move
I will follow You
Who You love, I'll love
How You serve I'll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow You
I will follow You         
I want to scream: I am here; I am listening; please show me the way. What do you want me to do, God?! Who should I give this money to? Where should I live? What job should I have? Why is my life still so far down the pit? Why do I feel like I am still stagnating in so many ways?! What do you want from me?!
Like Styx, I have questions and pray for signs:
I close my eyes and know there's peace
                                    In a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news
                                    To find we've so far to go
                                    And I keep on hoping for a sign
So afraid I just won't know
Show me the way, show me the way
                                    Bring me tonight to the mountain
                                    And take my confusion away
                                    And show me the way 
When I arrive for the Momentum meeting this week, I am still feeling raw. I have been entrusted with money and a task, and I have failed. I feel like I am “waiting for Godot”—story of my life.
          In his two-act absurdist play, Samuel Beckett utterly describes how I have felt too many times in my life: feeling stuck, waiting for someone or something that will never come, having an inability to act for whatever reason, being sure that tomorrow will bring a better day only to have more of the same. The feeling is like having a bare thread of hope in a hopeless situation and a desolate world.
          I am glad to get through the meeting without being forced to metaphorically wear the scarlet letter and happy that I still have time to reevaluate and find the person I am meant to bless with this cash.
When I told my girls about this new adventure, Laina shared a story that her service learning teacher recently relayed about helping a man who was offering portraits for a little grocery money in the parking lot of a pizza place because he had just moved down here and started a new job and had two weeks before payday. After this man drew a portrait of the teacher’s son, they said thanks but we don’t have any cash and drove home. Once there, the son said that he wanted to give the man something, so they drove back and gave him five dollars and thirty cents, the exact amount of money to buy a pizza right then. The man started crying because he was so touched by their kindness. That’s what I want: to touch someone with kindness and begin weaving a stronger string of hope.
My uncle also told me a story about how he and his young adult siblings each received a $100 bill from their Aunt Clarice. “Spend it on something special,” she said. So he hunted and searched and waited. Nothing seemed special enough, big enough, lasting enough, so he finally stuck the bill in his Bible and waited. Decades later, he left the chaos and excitement of New York City and moved back to family and the Mid-west. A few years later, finally, he knew what to do with his $100 bill when he heard his contractor complaining about a renter, a single mother, who wasn’t paying rent. This was just before Christmas, and he was packaging up our family’s homemade apple butter to share with his neighbors. So, he added a Christmas card with the $100 bill and took it to the single mother. He knocked, handed her the gift, and returned home. Later, he received a thank you card from the woman who shared that she had used the money for a small Christmas tree and gifts for her sons.
Yes. Sometimes waiting is the right thing to do. The important part is not to make waiting a lifestyle choice. There are many times in my life when I waited for too long, but there are also times when I took action and created a change that was better. So patience is one of the lessons I am learning, and another is to trust myself to know when to wait and when to act and to not worry that others might judge my actions and/or inactions. Finally, I am remembering that God does care and has a plan and is looking out for me, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. Even if I am complaining of too much conflict in my life. Even if I would prefer that God not only give me a signed copy of the plan, but that He also allow me to write in corrections and initial changes. But I do have faith that His plan is the best for me, even if I don’t get an advanced preview of it.
Speaking of conflict, I recently read an article from the July/August 2013 issue of Poets & Writers where Dan Barden asserts that conflict equals growth. He may be talking about fictional characters, but it’s true of humans too. In “The Art of Conflict: Why Your Characters Should Struggle,” Barden states:
Here’s the deal: Everything you want from your life is the opposite of what you give to your characters. Your characters should, more or less, always be having a very bad day. Why? Because that’s how human beings grow.
…Conflict is what creates growth. Conflict is what creates character. All forward movement is a product of conflict. All meaning, in fact, is a product of conflict. [We] need to fight.
…What it’s like to be a human being: hard. Like the man says, we’re all fighting a great battle. What narrative conflict brings to the party is the possibility of growth in the face of adversity—growth because we are faced with adversity. If there were nothing more important to me than my leisure, if it didn’t want things, I’d still have the values and self-discipline of a fourth grader. Fortunately for me, the world kicks my [arse] every day…
I agree.  Life is hard, and conflict, like it or not, grows me. For now, I am waiting, “waiting for Godot,” waiting for God.

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