It was one of those days. Those days when you suddenly realize you are giving so much – and not getting replenished. You’re so tired but also kind of angry. Why do people just take? Don’t they see me at all?
So, I went for a run. The trail was about as crowded as usual and I was lost in thought. About halfway, just before a big hill, a guy on a bike slowed down and held out his water bottle – offering me a drink.
All of a sudden, I had tears in my eyes. I was so touched by the gesture, even though I wasn’t dehydrated. I didn’t need water.
There is a sweetness in the offer of a gift, even if it isn’t something we need. Random-Generous-Guy-With-A-Water-Bottle taught me a two-part lesson:
- Freely offered gifts connect us. He offered what he had. It wasn’t what I needed, but it was still meaningful. When we offer what we have, especially to those that we care about, the gesture is sometimes more important than the thing itself.
- But these gifts don’t have to sustain you. You can honor the gift and still say ‘no thank you’, moving on to find the sustenance that you do need. Take the goodness that comes with what is offered, enjoy that effort and the spirit with which it’s given, have compassion – and then do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Trust yourself to know what you need.
If there is one thing we can say about the times we are in – they are dang stressful. Learning to balance action and self care is critical to well-being. Your actions matter, even if they seem small – the donation to a hard working nonprofit, your volunteer hours, the call to your senator, the difficult conversation with someone whose beliefs you want to understand, even just trying to keep up with the news. Keep doing those things, until it’s time to say, ‘no thank you’ and just keep running.