Breathe in the Real

Do you ever feel like you’re in a rat race?  An endless pursuit of things that don’t really matter.

Maybe it’s the Christmas season?  Maybe it’s the end of the year?  Maybe it’s the constant bombardment of tragedy in our lives?  Maybe it’s a little of everything that has me craving something.  Something true…something authentic…something real.

Real life.

Real people.

Real meaning.

Real me.

I’m so tired of fake.  I’m tired of phony.  I’m tired of mean, selfish and greedy.  I’m tired of hateful and rude.  I’m tired of the flip-you-off-in-traffic guy and the I-don’t-hold-doors-for-others girl.  If I’m honest, I’m just tired of people sometimes.  People….ewwwww!

I’m just so tired of our culture and this rat race for things…

Consume, consume consume…

Achieve, accomplish, produce…

It’s a never-ending cycle that’s never enough.  We work…we spend…repeat.

And, what in heavens for?

Surely this isn’t it…a rat race for more.

But, what if more meant something different than the pursuit of things.  What if we changed our perspective?  What if we got back to basics?  What if more meant more of things that change the world?  What if more got us back to real?

More grace.

More peace.

More gentleness.

More patience.

More kindness.

More love.

I want more of these things…the heart-changing, life-changing, world-changing things.

On Thanksgiving day, I went to back to my grandparents’s old house.  My cousin restored it and lives there now.  It’s so beautifully different, yet wonderfully the same.  As I walked around his house admiring the newness, I looked out the windows and teared up a few times at the sight of my children playing in the yard.  The yard where I hunted Easter eggs, chased baby chickens, and sat with my grandparents on long summer afternoons.  The yard I didn’t know I missed so much until that day.

This yard always represented so much of real life for me.  Full of the heart-changing things.  Children, cousins, first friends playing endless games of football and hide-and-go-seek.  Neighbors helping neighbors with ears of corn that needed to be shucked or beans that needed fixin’ (that would be stringing, breaking and canning for all you city folk).  And, numerous cookouts full of paper plates, bottomless sweet tea and endless conversations about nothing, but so much at the same time.  Time slows down in this yard and becomes a little sweeter.  Simple rules like the golden one reside here.  There’s no fuss, nothing fancy, just a whole lot of love with a side of fried okra – that’s my favorite.

And, as I sat at a table full of my cousins reminiscing about my grandparents and a cow who apparently jumped out of barn windows – true story – I took a deep breath and breathed in the real.  There was just so much of it in this room full of generations who have lived in pursuit of more.  And, they would tell you this has not always been easy because more requires less of self.  It requires acceptance.  It requires change, sometimes.  It requires patience, truth and kindness. But, most of all, it requires love.

My pursuit of real has got me thinking of how we can change things  – our culture, our hearts, lives and world.  And, my thinking lead me to an idea so perfectly illustrated in an interaction I had with my grandfather when I was about seventeen.  He was always dressed mostly the same in a button down shirt and pants.  Various shades of blue, brown and black, but mostly the same.  He was comfortable in his skin and in his hats and I was searching for independence and determined to be different.  I recall him looking down at my toenails painted various shades of bright colors with a toe ring shimmering in the sun.  I said, “you like my toes, Papa?” in a very seventeen-year-old girl tone.  He said, “if you like it, I like it”.  Then he slipped me a twenty and said, “here’s some gas money”.  He gave me what I wasn’t expecting – the compliment and the money – but, in reality, he gave me more – more grace, more patience, more kindness, more love and in that moment he taught me real.

So, in this Christmas season I’m inspired to do the same.  Twenty-five days of kindness and try give the world what they’re not expecting.  I’m gonna throw out compliments and maybe a twenty for gas.  Give a card to a neighbor for no reason at all.  Cook a meal, give a hug, or send a text to a friend.  I’m gonna pursue more of what matters and chase the real till it hurts.  I challenge you to join me and see what impact we have.  What if 10, maybe 20, maybe a 100 of us or more?  If we all try a little kindness and more of the real, just imagine how the world around us would look and would feel.  Imagine how goodness would fall like the rain.  Imagine more grace, more patience, more love.  Imagine what would happen if we lived for the real.

~Mary Ann


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