This past week our family was so sick we couldn’t see straight.
It was a 72-hour marathon of toilets and buckets and bowls, and the laundry running round the clock on repeat. One by one I watched each kid succumb until it was finally my turn. Pete was the last man standing, until he wasn’t.
It was brutal.
We were shaken, and when my boys could finally straggle their way back to school, they looked relieved to be leaving behind the scene of the crime.
I was left with a still-sick husband, what felt like a hundred more loads of laundry to go, and the desperate urge to text my mother-in-law, begging her to get on the next flight out and rescue me from being a grown up.
Some days it’s hard to scrape yourself up off the floor.
On days like that it’s almost shocking when someone offers to help.
Because on days like that you’re so undone you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror.
The competent version of yourself got lost around 5am three days back, and you aren’t sure how to take the next step forward. You just keep spraying down the counters and moving cups of water from one place to another.
You forget to brush your hair.
You’re still too nervous to brush your teeth.
You look at the wreckage of your house and it’s all too much and instead you sit down on the carpet and stare into space. Around you the world seems to keep pace with the news and the headlines and the deadlines, but in your four walls time has crawled to a standstill, and when the lady from the rental agency knocks at the door for your annual inspection, you stare at her in confusion because you forgot that everything outside your house hadn’t stopped to take pity on what’s happening inside.
You need to buck up, you tell yourself.
You need to get it back together.
You need to clean the upstairs bathroom floor. Again.
And you need to check your messages.
I’m in the minivan — with all its discarded innards spilling in a confused chaos of shame out of the car and into the parking lot of my daughter’s preschool — when I get the message.
A friend, a fellow mama and writer, is throwing stew in the crock pot at 9 am and wants to know if I’d like her to drop half of it off for dinner at 6pm?
I don’t even hesitate.
I pick up the phone to reply, “No thanks, we’re fine.”
And then I remember how it’s only when we admit our un-fine moments that people can actually get to us to help us.
It’s one thing to write that; it’s something else to actually live it.
I just sit in the car with something sticky underneath my shoe and consciously breathe in and out. And in and out again.
Then I pick up the phone and just say four words, “Thank you, yes please.”
I text her my address and then put my head down on the steering wheel and cry. Because comfort can undo you. Kindness can unglue you.
Because for all we tend to think we’ve got our lives under control, that is the biggest kind of self deception. We’re all just one stomach bug, one bad report card, one month of missed work, one negative interview, one lost wallet away from losing all the bits and pieces of our lives we hold onto with such tight fists.
And sometimes you sit in a minivan with both hands wide open and palms up to the sky and just whisper thank you, thank you through your tears and snotty nose. And Jesus reminds you, again, that you are not in control. And that while it may seem like He’s asleep in the boat, it’s not because He doesn’t care. It’s because He’s so deeply confident the Father is in control.
I’ve eaten Angela’s stew for the last four meals now.
Dinner the first night. Hot, chewy, chunky bits of meat and pieces of potato and carrots. Rice on the side. The kids inhaled it.
Then I ate it for breakfast and lunch the next day and lunch again today.
My eyes well up every time I open that old tupperware lid.
It’s why I keep eating it.
Because this is the totally uncomplicated gift of good neighbors.
Because this is what grace tastes like.
Totally underserved. And totally fulfilling.
Question for you: When last did someone do a simple act of kindness that filled you up all the way to your toes? We’d love to hear about it.