"I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." - Ecclesiastes 9:11
Studies show that people who walk faster, live longer. When I heard that, I decided I was going to become a fast walker.
I can do that now. For a while my kids slowed me down, but they are getting bigger, and even slowed by her penchant for worm- and flower-collecting, my 7-year-old is still out front of my brisk pace.
For a while cancer and chemotherapy slowed me down, both physically and metaphysically. I was the one stopping to smell every flower and notice every worm. But that kind of slow attentiveness wears off after a while, even for a cancer survivor.
Then recently, we took in a 13-year-old boy from Haiti. Junior was abandoned in the U.S. by his father after he came here for life-saving heart surgery. It was midwinter, he was in Maine, with no place to go. We said he could come stay with us for a few days. That was six weeks ago.
On his first day with us, Junior and I walked my kids to school, and continued on down to my office hours at the local café. I noticed that he couldn't keep up. His big, 13-year-old feet flopped down the street attached to a body that was just discovering health and strength again.
I slowed down. Agonizingly, at first. It was cold. I was late.
Then I slowed down, gratefully. I remembered how glad I was to be alive, and how glad I was that this sweet boy was alive. It was still winter, with neither a worm nor a flower in sight, but I could wait. I could wait.
The preacher Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of God giving us "the right kind of trouble" in our lives. The right kind of trouble—a 3-year-old who won't walk a straight line, a chemo that makes you savor, a 13-year-old who draws you back into all the old spiritual lessons you have forgotten—are different forms of the right kind of trouble. God's trouble might not help us live any longer, but it will definitely help us live bigger.
God, whether I want it or not: send me the right kind of trouble, especially when my pace has become too brisk and efficient. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.