I am a people watcher; I just am. I’m coming to terms with it, and even learning to embrace it. One of my favorite things is to go to a large airport, find an off the beaten path bench, and just observe. I know, it sounds weird, but I am a lover of humanity and watching them in their natural habitat just makes me happy.
Sometimes I like to pretend I’m some kind of fashion critic and decide who among the poor unaware souls walking by is dressed to my “standard.” Of course, the standard changes often since I really don’t know what I’m doing.
Plus, I am a total copycat and I get lots of good outfit ideas this way.
I also love to watch children follow along behind their parents; reminds me of the few times I’ve flown with my own small ones. These little guys and gals I observe rarely want to be there; all they really want is a place to sit and something to eat. But, none the less, they are being dragged around this huge corridor against their will, all the while being promised a special treat if they will only cooperate. Most do, but there’s always the occasional child that has had enough and NOTHING this side of heaven is going to make them comply. Those poor haggard parents, all they want is to get from here to there without a major incident. Is that too much to ask? Sorry, parents of those children, it doesn’t get easier. Not until they are way older, and anyone who tells you it does is not being a true friend to you.
Then there’s the few random souls who catch that little mini bus tram that comes through and loads up folks to be dropped off at their appropriate gate. They are the lucky ones. The rest are forced to walk pulling the piece luggage that promised when it was shiny and new to be the easiest rolling bag around.
Now in its defense, it did not know when it was sporting the shiny new tag promising to out roll and out perform any other suitcase on the market that you would fill it with half of the house, including the bedroom furniture. So, it can’t help that it weighed twenty pounds over the limit and cost you an extra twenty five dollars at the airline check in desk. And it really is your fault that it only has one wheel because the others popped off due to the extra poundage. Who knew suitcase wheels could be so temperamental anyway?! I know, I know, the tag promised…
I know exactly how frustrating the whole airport experience can be.
It seems I NEVER get a gate close by when making a connection, I usually get off of jet A on gate two only to need to get on jet B at gate eight hundred and fifty seven which is inevitability three miles of airport terminals away. And I usually have twelve minutes flat to get there. The moving sidewalks are a small joke compared to the ground I need to cover, and does anyone else feel kind of sea sick after walking on those things? But, nevertheless, I pile off the plane, with a positive, can-do attitude behind at least fifteen people who clearly have nowhere to be and all the time in the world before I start the great race to my connecting flight.
These are the folks to whom I most relate. You know, the ones sprinting with the bulging bag dragging behind them on the one remaining wheel. Sweat popping out on their foreheads, doing a sort of walk run that kind of looks like a desperate ostrich dragging a sloth.
Those are my people.
I would much rather be sitting on a bench WATCHING those folks and not actually BE one of them, it’s so much easier. Watching doesn’t require near as much effort and doesn’t cost me a thing. It involves no risk and is basically free entertainment. But, you know what I’ve discovered, watching keeps me on the sidelines. It may keep me from experiencing some of the bumps of life, and maybe some blisters from inappropriate shoes that I chose to wear while sprinting the length of the airport, but it keeps me from the many joys of life as well. Sitting there may feel safe, but I sacrifice the opportunity to grow and expand and live in the immeasurably more that God has for me.
Life is not meant to be OBSERVED.
It is meant to be LIVED.
Okay, even as I typed that last sentence I rolled my eyes at myself for sounding so cliché. I mean, of course life is meant to be lived, that sounds so obvious. But, wait, what does LIVING LIFE really mean? Doesn’t getting out of bed each day and breathing count as being alive? And if it does, then what is the difference between being alive and REALLY LIVING? Is there a difference or am I just splitting hairs?
I decided to ask a few people that I love doing life with for their opinion. I am sharing their quotes with you because I felt they were so good and I wanted you to see them for yourself. Names will not be included to protect the “innocent,” but I will include their occupation, gender and age.
The question I proposed was simple and straight forward, “What is the difference between being alive and really living? Or do you think there is a difference?”
The responses were golden.
“I think probably just being alive would be a day to day existence and taking what life brings and being REALLY ALIVE would be attacking life and getting the most out of it.” – Pastor, Male, age 70
“Well, just talking off the top of my head, when I think of being alive I think of the physical, like having a pulse, breathing. But truly living, I can’t help but think of Christ and what He brings to our whole being; body, soul and spirit.”—Elementary School Teacher, Female, age 42
“It’s the same difference between thriving and surviving. It’s one thing to breathe in and out and be more than stagnant. It’s a totally different thing to be excited for life and searching for ways to make life more than what you see in front of you. In practical terms, I think it is being excited to wake up and face the possibilities a day has rather than accepting a bland, riskless life.”—College Student, Male, age 20
“Yes, I definitely think there is a difference, being alive is existing, occupying space with no drive, no plans and no purpose whatsoever. REALLY LIVING is enjoying life and being excited, loving those around you and being with them. Engaged in their lives, being a part of their plans, a part of what is happening. Looking forward to participating in life with others.”— Retired School Bus Driver, Female, age “seventy something.”
“I think being alive is just existing-one day after another. I think REALLY LIVING is doing everything in your power to make your life better and the lives of those around you better.”—Retired Child Care Advisor, Female, age 73
“Being alive- I suppose it is the context of the word alive, but when I think between these two scenarios, I think of the words-existing or existence. Possibly going through the motions, but lacking a feeling of life. REALLY LIVING- invigorated with life, ‘in the game,’ having the emotions of life -whether happy or sad -but seeking to press ahead in all circumstances. Allowing oneself to feel life- meaning all the emotions that life can bring, but not staying in the moment forever-especially in sad or hard times. One more comparison. Alive-shallow breathing, unaware of the breath one is taking. REALLY LIVING- inhaling and inhaling deeply, feeling the breath in ones lungs. I guess for me, I have thought of these comparisons in terms of existing or of being ALIVE. That is why I said at first about the context of what is meant by alive. I have treated many people who have not had a good situation, and in some circumstances some people would think they were not really living, but even in their sickness they were life-giving to me and others around them. If you ask me, they are still living. REALLY LIVING. I have treated others who had no life-giving qualities in them, and more so appeared to be existing. I would say they were alive, but only existing in life, not REALLY LIVING. So, in two words Existing vs. Invigorated” -Physical Therapist Assistant, Female, age 42
Aren’t these great? Can you relate to any one of them more than another?
After reading these answers, I noticed a couple of reoccurring themes.
One, REAL LIVING involves EFFORT. Getting out there and trying new things, exploring, challenging your status quo and taking some risks. Causing your emotions to be moved and not continuing to keep them lulled to sleep in the safety of what is familiar and easy. REAL LIVING should hurt sometimes, it should make you laugh until you can’t breathe, take your breath away, and bring you to tears with the beauty of it all.
Secondly, I saw a reoccurring theme of engaging in the lives of others. Making a conscience effort to make the lives of those around you better. In sickness or in health. Investing yourself in the people God has placed around you involves taking a risk. People are far from perfect and they will let you down, sometimes they will drain you and maybe even use you for personal gain.
So, why take this risk?
Because we are meant to be connected. We really do need each other. We need the interaction, and the love that communion with another gives. It’s fulfilling and beautiful when a friendship/relationship is grounded in Christ. It meets the need we have to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a body. Just like it talks about in scripture.
The investment is worth it, because more often than not, people become our great treasure.
REALLY LIVING involves so much more than could ever be put by pen on paper, and it is so perfectly individual to each of us. But, the one thing that rings true for everyone is that is requires EFFORT. You cannot sit on the sidelines, or on a bench, and expect to live a life that leaves you feeling spent and wonderful.
What is it in your life that you keep putting off because you fear failure or don’t want to commit the time? Or maybe you’re afraid or worried about what others might think if you did this “thing” that’s been in your heart for so long.
For me, it was writing this blog.
I have no experience in writing and no formal training on how be an author, but I have so many stories I want to tell and lessons I want to talk about. So, after being crushed to a point that I didn’t think I would recover, I finally decided it was time to take the leap.
Grief was my catalyst.
And now, every week I share my heart with people, with you. I risk feeling inadequate, possible ridicule, and I am constantly reminded that I have more to learn than most. But, I’ve decided to live, REALLY LIVE my life, to take the chance and TRUST that God will use it somehow. And each week I am thrilled when I publish it and someone says, “That really spoke to me.” It makes it all worth it and I feel so alive and fresh inside.
It was worth taking the CHANCE and making the EFFORT.
Let me challenge you to do the same, whatever “it” is for you. Get up off of that “bench” where you’ve been sitting for so long OBSERVING and get out there and do the “thing!”
And, any time you want to go get a coffee and sit and watch people for a while, call me. I’m always up for free entertainment.
And maybe a few new outfit ideas.