No more boxes…

There are a handful of things in life that I crave. International travel would be one of those cravings. I am grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to travel the world, often serving alongside the poorest of the poor. People often share how noble it is that I participate in global projects, but here it is; while I go with intentions of serving others, I always get more than I give, always. One of the reasons I crave international travel is the simple fact that on those trips I find myself again. When I travel I am depending on others to take care of all my basic needs; food, water, housing and my own personal safety. I can’t hide when I travel, I am completely at the mercy of the kindness of strangers and in that process I once again find myself.

In addition to craving international travel I also crave donuts. Thank goodness I have a strong sense of willpower. At any given time in my life I experience these self-imposed challenges where I give-up something just to see if I can live without it. I’ve given up many types of food and drinks at various stages in my life. For almost 13 months now I have been donut free! I just decided one day that my life would be healthier without donuts, so I stopped eating donuts. More on the donuts in a minute …

I recently had to spend an extended amount of time in the car with a friend. Much like international travel, when you are stuck in a car with someone you can’t hide. As the hours passed it became clear to me that she had a real need to place people in boxes. She had a long list of boxes that she used for most, if not all of the people she talked about. There were the idiots, the morons, the clueless, the stupid, the classless… and then there were all her rhetorical questions; why would someone do that? why would someone say that? what were they thinking? does she realize how stupid she looks? do these people have any idea what they are doing? It was exhausting and I wasn’t even participating. It was second-hand judgement, but it was tiring and so unnecessary.

And so I made a decision, I decided that my life would be healthier if I intentionally stopped putting people in boxes. I wish I could tell you that I stopped cold and had great success like I’ve had with the donuts. The truth is this has been very hard and worth it.

Here’s an example; A few weeks ago I was invited to my niece’s dance recital. My first question was in regards to the dress code. My sister simply said, “church stuff” and I knew I was good to go. When we arrived I noticed that the woman in front of me stood out in the crowd. She was probably 65 and she had grey mullet. She had on a sweatshirt and wind pants, you know, the ones that make a lot of noise when you walk. And, for shoes she was wearing Crocs. I began to shake my head thinking, “Well, clearly she didn’t get the memo…” but then I caught myself; no more judgement, no more boxes. The mere process of intentionally stopping that thought created space for much healthier thoughts. As I paused the following thought entered my mind, “Some little girl on stage tonight is going to be so proud that her Grandma is in the audience.” My heart was full.

I no longer want to reduce people to the simplicity of a box or a label. I no longer want to ask rhetorical questions that are used as a passive-aggressive tool of judgement. I no longer want to simplify people so they can fit in my understanding of the world. And in doing so my world has grown exponentially and I didn’t even have to leave the country to make that happen.

People weren’t made for boxes, donuts were made for boxes. And one of these days I will end my donut fast and purchase a box full of that chocolate-covered tasty goodness. But when I do, I hope it is in celebration of finding myself again by intentionally living judgement and box free while discovering the kindness within ….