So often in my adult life, I have heard this phrase ringing in my ears. Yes, it sounds just like pop-psychologist, Oprah's friend Dr. Phil: "It's not abouut YOUUU." I'll admit, sometimes it rings in my ears as it applies to others, but very often, it applies to me.
This whole project--me--trying to present myself gracefully--is not really about me. It is, in the sense that I need to feel comfortable putting myself out there, but the purpose of that is to serve others. Yes, I think when everything boils down, there are perks. I've even read books on purgatory discussing the fact that we pray for the dead [Catholic theology alert], and, yes, that's about as generous as one gets because no one is going to know and there aren't really immediate visible benefits for showing mercy for the dead. However, if we show them mercy, then, certainly, they will show us the same and pray for us when we find ourselves in similar circumstances, so...there it is again. I don't expect things in return, but in many ways, providing hospitality and carrying oneself gracefully, these things have their own rewards built in.
I am sure as we proceed, it will be apparent that I do get annoyed when things don't go as I expect and others do not show the proper etiquette or appreciation. I know that because as I have tried to extend myself, I've already experienced it. Part of this process, and part of the reason for talking about it, then, is to be prepared--to prepare myself better, and to prepare anyone else who might be inclined to hear my experience--to accept even the annoying and the unappreciative responses to my efforts in a graceful manner and to find ways to make those situations easier on both me and others.
I want to demonstrate a way of living--of welcoming, of sharing, of supporting others--to my kids. I want to develop those habits in myself so that I do better, not just with people we invite into our home or encounter outside of it, but with those of us that actually live here. Sometimes, showing welcoming, sharing, and supporting each other is about the last thing we are thinking about in our own homes. I have said to my kids numerous times: "You would never treat someone you met at school or on the street that way. WHY is it OK for you to treat your brother/sister that way?"
At core here is that anyone can do this. It doesn't take money. It doesn't take a fancy house. Those things are nice, but we don't want to spend our lives saying, "When we get..." It tends to waste the time we have. I cannot tell you the number of people I have heard about dying within weeks or months of their retirements. How many things did they put off for "when we retire"? We don't have time. My oldest graduates from high school in six months. I don't have time. My baby is nine, Yes, not having toddlers in the house makes things different. Getting a full night's sleep most nights makes a difference, but I can tell you, I wish I had found ways to welcome others more sooner. I wish I had done a better job of taking care of myself for the last seventeen years. Again, because there would have been benefits to all of us, despite whatever trouble or annoyance that comes with making the effort.
It takes stretching. It takes effort. It creates some awkward and uncomfortable situations. I tend to be somewhat introverted. I take time to warm up to people. And even after I start feeling comfortable, then I'm second guessing myself and feeling uncomfortable again. I shouldn't have said that. I should have said this. I should have shut up. Maybe, probably, I think too much about it. Maybe I just need more opportunities for practice. I can hope that the people I encounter are willing to give me more opportunities. Making this effort is worthwhile, and I need to find ways to be comfortable with occasionally being uncomfortable because the payoff is huge.