I’ve heard it said before: “We are human beings, not human doings.” In fact, I’ve pledged to live by that simple mantra a time or twenty.
But sometimes, my heart forgets to inform my brain of my good intentions.
That’s what had happened that morning, just after the mellow morning sun pooled on my kitchen table. The phone rang, and it was Sandy. She’s one of those rare souls in my life whose whole being seems fully directed toward the spontaneous act, the random lunch, the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants whim.
I let the phone ring four times before answering, because you never know what you might agree to when Sandy calls. But I answered, and sure enough, she had another idea. Could we go to the nursing home to play Bingo?
I let out my air in one long breath. I looked at my planning-calendar. How could I cram another thing into the little box assigned for the day? It was already pencil-scratched clear full with all of my “to-do.”
She interrupted the quiet space between us. “Jennifer, It’s OK, truly.”
“I’m so sorry …” I said, and the phone went back on the cradle.
In the silence, I stared at the little calendar box for a long time, this box that neatly framed all of my duties. I tapped the square with the end of my pencil.
Yep. I had put God in a box again. I do that. A lot.
I treat life like a list of things “to-do,” instead of a “to-be” list. I am too often a human doing, instead of human being. I am a planner. I live life afraid that the spontaneous act will derail my well-laid plans.
I lifted the phone off the cradle. Maybe I could play after all, I told her.
“Be there at 2 p.m.,” she said.
The room was dappled in sunlight, reflecting off wheelchair-chrome and a mylar “Happy Birthday” balloon. One of the women was celebrating her 96th year on Earth. Tables were set with fake daffodils in slender white vases. I grabbed a Bingo card and found a seat by a sweet lady named Katherine.
Sandy was already there, calling Bingo numbers into the microphone.
“B-16. Does anyone have B-16?” she asked.
A wide grin spread across the face of a wizened woman who bellowed: “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed!” Her shoulders shook as she laughed.
“B-18,” Sandy called out. “B-18. Anybody remember when you were 18?”
Katherine’s age-spotted hand shot into the air. “I do!” she shouted from her wheelchair: “I remember!”
Sandy asked into the microphone: “What would you do if you were 18 again, Katherine?”
Katherine’s eyes widened. She didn’t hesitate: “I’d pick more daisies,” she said. “And I’d dance barefoot in the rain, and I’d fish with a worm.”
Katherine tossed her head back with laughter.
I’ll need to remember this, I thought as I watched her, with my chin resting in my hands. I want to make room for who I want to be:
I want to be a dancer. I want to be a daisy picker. I want to laugh more, laugh fuller. I want to be courageous. I want to be Jesus to a stranger.
What if — for the rest of my life — I awoke each morning focused less on what I could do, and more on who God is asking me to be?
I wonder, if maybe, I might wake up to find a sweet surprise on my spiral-bound planning calendar. I wonder if I might find room, just outside the box.