Monday, October 29, 2012

doing something is better than doing nothing.

{photo by Julie Cope}

Occasionally I discover what Gretchen Rubin calls a "secret of adulthood," a truth realized and tested after months and years of hard-lived experience. 

One truth that has popped up repeatedly since my grandmother's death earlier this year is this idea that doing something -- even if it's done poorly -- is better than doing nothing. 

After my grandmother's death, a handful of friends chose to live that truth: they came to the funeral, left food on my front porch, and sent emails filled with sweet words of encouragement and remembrance. 

Other friends were uncomfortable, and that's okay. Death is uncomfortable. It isn't fun to think about or talk about, and I understand the not knowing what to say, and choosing to settle for silence instead. 

But I am so incredibly grateful for those few friends brave enough to do something, and it has inspired me, in moments when courage feels far away, to choose the something over the nothing. 

For me, that means doing things I'm not necessarily good at for the sake of people I love. It means making time to cook a little extra for friends who might need a pick-me-up. It means sending birthday cards even if they're a month late. It means doing instead of talking about doing. 

A friend of mine has a baby due in a few short weeks. In the middle of her pregnancy, she and her husband decided to sell their home and buy a new one. On the day they were to close on both of their homes -- the one they were selling and the one they were buying -- the family buying their old house backed out of the deal. My friend and her husband were ready to move; they had all of their belongings packed in a truck. In a single moment, that changed. They chose not to buy their new home without selling their old one, which meant unloading the contents of the truck back into the house they'd already said goodbye to. 

In the middle of all of that chaos, I was busy with my own plans. I was traveling and work was a little nutty, and I didn't do anything. I couldn't. Life was hectic, and my friend understood that. 

The chaos has died down, and my life, in turn, has returned to a fairly normal pace. That rough patch my friend was going through is over, and I missed it, really through no fault of my own.

I think there's another secret of adulthood at play here, though.

Better late than never. 

Sure, the moment may have passed. My friend and her husband are happy and -- amazingly -- moved back into their home. I missed helping with that process, and I could just wait until another crisis hits before lending a helping hand. 

But that's silly, isn't it? To wait until I'm needed to be a good friend?

So last Tuesday, I took my friend dinner. I made twice baked potato casserole, and I bought chicken from Publix. I sent over apple cake a friend had given me and Jordan that I knew we wouldn't be able to eat before heading out of town. I added a gallon of my favorite lemonade and the latest issue of Real Simple magazine. 

It wasn't all made from scratch. It wasn't really timely, wasn't sent over when my friend really needed it. 

But everybody likes free food. Everybody likes a warm meal they don't have to cook. Everybody likes kindness, even if it's a little overdue. 

Sure, it's better to be the friend who's right on time. Sometimes, though, life doesn't allow that. 

When that happens, I want to choose to be a friend anyway. Even when it's late. Even when it's not entirely homemade or perfectly planned. 

Doing something is better than doing nothing, and it's better to be late than to never show up.


Seek First said...

I've been making excuses to avoid taking dinner to a friend who recently had a baby. Today, I'm doing it. Your words are always inspiring.

Seek First said...

I've been avoiding taking dinner to a friend who just had a baby because of all the business. Today, I'm getting that dinner to her. Your words are always inspiring.

Hailey Marie said...

You're amazing, thank you for this reminder. I think we tend to over think the little things and believe that acts of kindness or service have to always be grand gestures. Sometimes its the simple, quiet acts that speak the loudest truths.

AbbieBabble said...

As always, you're so right. Gestures like these, even when they're tiny, and even when they're late, make such a difference. I'm going to try to remember that.

Sabrina said...

This is beautifully true Annie. "I want to choose to be a friend anyway." As MLK. Jr. said "The time is always right to do what is right." I am loving this post so much and will be sharing it on my blog at some point. I'm currently stranded in Boston b/c of storm Sandy. I'll call you soon:)

Erin said...

This is so right on, Annie! It is not about meeting their needs perfectly. It is about doing something to reach out and love. To rejoice with them as they rejoice or mourn with them as they mourn.

wishful nals said...

such a good thing to remember. sometimes it is easy to forget!

wishful nals said...

always, always a good reminder!

Rachel Reeves said...

Something always means something.