What matters and what doesn’t

By Denae Jones – 

We spent last evening sitting around a campfire with dear friends. My son had some boys from school over for a birthday party, so a bunch of nine-year olds were running around the yard playing laser tag. When they decided they were going to be brave and walk through the woods in the dark, of course the older girls had to sneak back first and jump out and scare them. We had s’mores and talked and laughed under a star-filled sky and crisp, autumn air. As I sit here writing this, the morning sun is chasing the dew away, and I can hear a distant combine bringing in the harvest. Walnuts keep falling from the tree out back and hitting the top of the barn. The neighbor’s rooster is crowing. It makes a person think about what matters and what doesn’t.
You know what doesn’t matter? The petty nonsense come celebrity tweeted in hopes of pushing their political agenda. As if their status is going to make us change our opinion. Give me a break. I don’t care how pretty they are. That is incredibly unattractive.
You know what IS attractive? Hard work. Kindness. Honesty. Keeping your word. Empathy. Being humble. Respecting the opinion of others, but not putting them down when they don’t agree with yours. Doing things for other people and not expecting anything in return. Why don’t they make reality shows about stories like that? I bet that farmer who is running the combine up the road right now has a lot of stories to tell. And I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be about which celebrity might be eating the food he just worked all season to provide.
I have always loved small town USA, and I love our small town newspapers. They not only give us big story headlines, but also report on the little people that make big differences. They tell us great things that are happening in our schools. Student athletes who are making a difference on the field. Friends who got awards at the county fair. Couples celebrating 65 years of marriage. Gardening tips. Festivals. Neighbors helping one another after a tragedy. Police officers reaching out to help our youth. Those stories might not make the cover of Time Magazine, but I’m glad someone is telling them because sometimes we just need to be uplifted. Sometimes we need to only fill our minds with the things that actually do matter.
I heard a story told about a cab driver in New York City who was about end a very long shift, and had one last person to pick up. He went to the address, honked the horn, and nobody came out. He waited and waited and was about to pull away, but something told him that he should just go up to the door and knock. So he got out of the car and knocked on the door and when he was about to walk away, an elderly woman walked up. He helped her with her bags, helped her into the cab, and got the address for where she was going. The woman requested that he drive the long way through the city. The driver really did not want to do this. He wanted to go home. But he did as the lady asked, and as he drove past certain places, she would tell him stories. She showed him the hotel where she had her first job, the dance hall where she went to her first dance, the spot where she and her deceased husband had their first home, and where they had their first child who had also died. Finally, they arrived at the address and he realized that it was a hospice facility. The woman was going to walk through that door for the last time. The woman said, “I have no family left. Thank you for letting me re-live those memories one more time.”
I love that story. We don’t know the race, sexuality, or political preference of the woman or the driver because it doesn’t matter. We just see two people reaching out to one another. The cab driver was patient. He was kind. He saw the person behind the problem, and it brought a great deal of joy to that woman’s heart.
Do we do that? For example, when there is a wreck and we are stuck in a traffic jam, we get frustrated at the backup. How might our attitude change if we gave real thought to the person behind the problem? The people in that wreck are someone’s family. They were on their way somewhere, just like us. What if we forgot about the traffic jam for a moment and offered a prayer instead? Wouldn’t it make us more patient?
The last time I was flying, there was a small child crying on a plane. A lot. Some passengers were being passive aggressive with eye rolls and audible sighs. But I recognized that this child was afraid, and his mother was probably stressed out and embarrassed. That mother could easily be me! So instead, I made a goofy face at the child to get his attention, then started playing peek-a-boo between the seats. When he started giggling, you could see visible relief on his mother’s face. She thanked me as we got off the plane.
This week, let’s ponder on what matters and what doesn’t, and decide which deserves our time and attention. Have a blessed week, friends!