Surrounded by stacks of papers, I write to escape. I’ll do almost anything to avoid paperwork. And yet, guilt from the ingrained standards and example of my Norwegian mother and a perfectionist father leave me feeling guilty, but not enough to keep sorting. My bent is to create, which sounds lofty unless one must pick up after me. I’m prone to interrupt a current project with something new that catches my fancy.
Which leads me to a letter I unearthed from Sam Schreiner. Long ago Sam and I co-directed orientation for new students at Gordon College. We were an unlikely duo. Opposites. But we formed a formidable team, like Jud and I. But I digress. So back to his letter from 1980.
Sam’s letter arrived on my cluttered desk after we’d met earlier to finalize the schedule for orientation weekend. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it” is more than a phrase from a hymn, when it comes to my life. Judging by Sam’s thoughtful letter, it appears I resisted closure. Again. Come to think of it, when Jud and I married, it’s a wonder I said, “I do“, instead of “Perhaps. ” (Did Jud just laugh?) Well, back to Sam. He wrote the following after I’d suggested bringing a troupe of jugglers to campus as part of orientation.
“I really have no objection to this but I do have a suggestion, for you, Jan. You’ll save us a lot of ulcers if we call the planning done and work on the implementation. It is fun to come up with new ideas but each new idea brings with it more loose ends to tie up–and we have quite of few of these already. Just a piece of friendly advice. Go with your instincts on this, Jan. I’m with you. Your friend and co-worker, Sam”
Well, while the jugglers ended up coming, Sam’s advice tempered me, as Jud’s often did. And Sam and I remain friends, even in public. As an INFP on the Myers-Briggs I’m prone to loose ends, as in endless possibilities, which create trails of paper for others and eventually for me. Is it any wonder that on my refrigerator I have a quote from A.A. Milne. “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” Like Sam’s letter.
So today marks the twentieth day of 2022. I’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions. They’re like today’s to-do list, by evening I’ll rework it for a another go tomorrow. But I do resolve to leave behind less paper, give fewer ulcers, tie up more loose ends and stay teachable to those who love me enough to give just a piece of friendly advice. They sometimes come like an epiphany.
Which circles me back to Epiphany evening, when we gathered around the table in California. It was a sweet time of reflecting, eating special food and enjoying Lily’s version of an almond bread, akin to one served in France on this occasion. Luke read the story of the Magi from the Bible and Basil a poem he’d written. As we peered into the year ahead, I read a quote from Henry David Thoreau.
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
Well, consider this Just a piece of friendly advice.
Thanks, Sam, and to all of you who read, respond and nudge me to keep teachable and go paper-less.
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