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October 19, 2016

I found this quote the same day a few months ago that I met a homeless man who changed my perspective. And while the original blog post at Lovely Indeed sharing this quote is a beautifully-written perspective, (and you should definitely check it out here) this is mine.

I’m in a Stress Management class this semester for the Community Health half of my degree. Why isn’t Stress Management class required of all people everywhere? I don’t know, guys. But it should be. It’s by far my favorite class. We hit a lot of important points each week, one repeatedly being “self-care is not selfish.”

We’ve talked a lot about how sometimes in our society, people wear their busy-ness like a badge or like a martyr, like their to-do list is their source of worth. My teacher, who works as a counselor as well, says people, (women especially) often claim to “do it all” or shame those who take time for themselves or know their limits. Many of the women in my class are mothers, and listening to their experiences, this sounds especially common among mothers. It’s easy to list all that we DO, how little time we have, how super busy we are, but our to-do list is not strictly who we are.

All of that doesn’t (and SHOULDN’T) capture our SELF or our identity. What you or I accomplish in a day or can handle in a week or a month isn’t who we are. Are they components? Sure. Absolutely. But my teacher continuously emphasizes that it is so important to get to know ourselves, to be kind to ourselves, to learn what we can honestly do without losing who we are, as an extension of who we are in our hearts. I know at times, I’ve lost myself to feelings of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, etc. Probably you have too. It’s cool. We’re all friends here.

As my teacher said, maybe 5,000 times: Self-care is not selfish. And you can’t do it all. And it’s OKAY to not do it all.

But you WANT to sometimes, right?! Me too. Some days, I want to ace every class, I want to be able to work more to earn more money, I want to make friends with everyone and know every name in our branch, I want to turn our Etsy adventure into something that could help save for a house someday, or significantly help support our someday-babies, I want to be more social, I want to hike more mountains, I want to serve more earnestly, I want to have a greater impact on the uncertain future of our country, I want to calm conflicts, I want to stay in touch with friends from high school, I want to read with refugees and serve in the community, I want to donate to charity, I want to have more hours in the day to write more thank you notes, or send nicer messages, I want, I want, I WANT. All this focus on wanting to do it all, or comparing myself to others who seem to do more can send me into a negative spiral, beating myself up and wondering why I CAN’T do it all.

But realistically, I really can’t do it all. And it’s okay to not do it all. There are different seasons for different capacities. You have to take care of yourself to have anything to draw on to give to others. It’s okay to be busy, but remember always that it is okay, and good, not to do it all.

One thing my high school theater teacher, Andra, shared with me years ago has come to mind many times this semester:

“Just give what you can give, and it will be enough.”

That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to hit every last thing on your to-do list, and your to-do list doesn’t have to be as big or bigger than someone else’s. You just have to do what you can do, and give what you can give, from where you are and WHO you are.

That’s exactly what a homeless man taught me a month ago.

After an unfortunate encounter with a huge creep while Cody was out of town traveling for work, my guard was up and ginormous; think Great Wall of China status. Trying to avoid being the hermit I felt tempted to become that night, I decided to take myself on a date and go to the Beehive Bazaar in Provo. I wanted to snag some macarons my friend Karlie makes to surprise Cody when he got home the next day. Parking was nuts, and my only choice was to parallel park. Haha! If you know me, you understand the predicament. The only time I (kind of) parallel parked was my driving test, and I am pretty sure I failed that portion. :/ But I was driving Cody’s Subaru with a rear-view camera, so I figured it was worth a gamble. (And if not, since I was by myself, I could always drive awkwardly home if I failed and no one would be the wiser. #realtalk)

The Beehive Bazaar is held at the Start-up Building in Provo right by the train station, so there are typically a lot of people looking for money or rides. Not far from the open spot, a homeless man stood with his arm out, thumb up, looking to hitch a ride. As soon as I pulled parallel to the car in front of the spot and signaled to park, the man jogged toward my car. Immediately, I panicked. I thought back to the disgusting man who had approached me earlier in the day and braced myself for another bad encounter getting out of the vehicle.

I tried to keep my eyes down and just focus on the rear-view camera, avoiding eye contact with him outside my window. I must have looked nervous, but it wasn’t long until I realized he hadn’t come to accost me in any way, shape, or form. He was standing behind my car, motioning with his hands and backing me into the spot. A total stranger, in need himself, saw the tight parking space, anticipated my need, and ran to help.

Before I could even get out of the car to thank him, he patted the trunk of my car to congratulate me, gave me a warm smile that spread from beneath his unkempt beard and reached all the way up to his kind eyes, waved goodbye and walked on, thumb out again.

I was a quick puddle of tears.

He didn’t buy me dinner, or give me a million dollars, or make a grand, extravagant gesture. Maybe he didn’t work a 40-hour-work-week, and I doubt his day contained any of the items on yours or my to-do list. By the world’s standards, he definitely did NOT do it all.

But he towered in worth, and goodness, and love. He absolutely knew who he was, and from that place, he gave what he could give. His time, his kindness, his smile, his selflessness. It was more so much more than enough.

It reaffirmed to me what my teacher has been preaching all semester. If we each slow down, stop comparing our life and our abilities to others, focusing less on “doing it all” and more on doing what matters, the ripple effect of the good we give, big or small (remember, just give what you can give) would be far more life-improving and earth-shattering than we can ever imagine.

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