I am scraping out the innards of a huge spaghetti squash with a spoon. Yellow fibers and white seeds accumulate in a soft pile on my cutting board. I work purposefully- around and around. The more I scrape, the easier I can see the pale yellowish sides of this fleshy melon-shaped gourd. It is cathartic, this scraping. I scrape the squash raw. Bare to the bone, so to speak.
Sometimes that is what it feels like, Life. Like you are scraping us all raw. All the pressures, demands of our days. Family, work, faith, extra-curricular, friends, personal. And the list goes on. And on and on and on. The proverbial spoon eating away at us until we feel there is nothing left. Until we feel empty.
Hollow. Bare. Worn.
I plunk the squash in a white corning-ware dish and squirt on generous portions of olive oil for flavor, then hoist it up into the microwave. I’m beat. It will be supper, clean-up and then a walk. And then? Well, I can’t think about anything past this right now. Because that is the time of the night that I can do without- bedtime witching hours and other forms of entertainment meant to drive poor parents into the crazy house.
But first things first: the walk. Always the walk. Tonight’s will most certainly be in the rain. At least I have the peace and quiet to look forward to.
And yet. I find that even with the small pleasures one is afforded- gentle mist at dusk, leaves spread out in colorful pattern on a cobble-stone walkway, kittens scrambling for a warm dish of scraps- even in all this: one can feel worn.
Is it meant to be this exhausting, Life?
There was that moment today.
I met the Boy in the hallway, crying. His jacket had been torn and it was ‘his best one’ he sobbed. He showed me the rip- the zipper pulled out from the lining leaving a gaping hole. He was worried. Would his mother growl him? Would he have to make do? Sometimes a coat can be cause enough to make a boy worry when there isn’t much else in his possession.
I didn’t really have time or answers- I myself was on the run. It was a split-minute decision: ‘stay and talk’ or ‘smile and pass’. I couldn’t bring myself to do the latter. I just couldn’t.
I lean in close enough to see his eyes, to notice the tears. To notice the worry. And my heart just goes out to him. Sometimes you find yourself face to the ground without any other solutions but to wearily lift your head up. And even that is a hard enough task for which to muster the strength. This I know is true- I’ve been there before myself.
I don’t have much to offer him- but I had just unpacked a book order containing a new title meant as a surprise for my own daughter. That is what I had been doing prior to opening the door and then finding him there, standing by the lockers. What could I do? What could a teacher do? What does a mother do?
She follows her heart.
“Do you like to read?” I ask. “Can you read books with lots of words?”
He nods the affirmative.
“You wait here,” I tell him. “I have something for you.”
I scoot back into the classroom and retrieve the book which I then thrust into his arms. “There you go- hope you like it!”
And he walks off, leaving me standing in the doorway of my room for another second longer.
And I don’t have much time to think in that moment about emptiness and hollowing out and worn. I don’t have time to think about me. Because all I feel is joy. For him. I saw him smile! And joy when it is caught fills you up so much so that you cannot sense the wear and tear of everyday life- all you can feel is the peace. The contentment and the sweet, sweet filling grace.
Giving has that kind of way with me. It just makes my cup overflow.
And later I will take that walk in the rain and I will feel those sweet October breezes then the evening damp from the drizzle and dew, and I will smell the sweet earth and hear the potato trucks driving yet another brimming load into the warehouse one community over: I will sense it again. Full. That feeling of being full. Full of good things, so much and so varied. And although there will come again those moments still, of knowing empty. Of knowing hollow. Of knowing that worn-out, exhausted tired that we who are human are so susceptible to befriend. It will return. But then, I can know too with surety and anticipation that when that moment of ‘knowing empty’ passes, it will be replaced with knowing peace- with knowing grace. Replaced with knowing that life is good.
It is so incredibly good. And we have so very much with which to fill us up.