Interruptions as Opportunities


cc photo by J. Delp

The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day at a time.  – C.S. Lewis

I like to plan my day.

I try to follow the tried and true principles of effective time management. I keep to-do lists. I schedule appointments. Each morning (or prior evening) I look over my lists and my calendar and I make decisions about the most productive way to spend my day.

And then I arrive at work. I am greeted by over eight-hundred and fifty junior high students, their teachers, and parents. From that point forward, I’m lucky if I look at my plan for the day. Stuff pops up that is not on my list. A staff member experiencing a technology issue. A student sent out of class for emptying a bottle of water on another student. A justifiably upset parent calling because scary clowns (high schoolers promoting a haunted house event) were chasing their student at lunch. Yes. This happened. I could write an entire blog post about this one incident.

My well planned day rapidly devolves into a series of unpredictable interruptions and scary clowns (literally and figuratively). I have typically viewed these intrusions as a source of frustration — things that are keeping me from more important tasks, appointments, and projects.

But take a moment and re-read that quote by C.S. Lewis. The interruptions are “real life.” It’s what I am being sent. One day at a time. One moment at a time. The possibility of supporting a staff member and helping them solve a problem. An opportunity to visit with a student about a poor decision and how we might make things right. The chance to acknowledge a parent’s frustration, demonstrate empathy, and reassure a student who was upset by scary clowns.

These are not inconveniences, they are opportunities — “real-life” experiences. They are only interruptions if I choose to view them as such. How boring life would be if it all went according to plan.


What the World Needs…

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Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. —Martin Luther King Jr.

A few weeks ago I was struggling to stay afloat. I went to my office mailbox and found a small card — a note from one of my staff members. It began with a recognition that it appeared to have been a difficult quarter for me and then this person listed specific things they had noticed me doing that they felt had made a difference. It was a powerful and immediate boost to my spirits.

That note has me thinking about the countless opportunities we have to encourage others. What if we all took advantage? What if we trained ourselves to see, and acknowledge, the good in our daily lives, our community, and our world? It could truly be life-changing, for ourselves and for others. As awful as things sometimes appear, there is considerably more positive in the world than negative. The good just does not get the attention it deserves.

So what made this note so powerful? First, it demonstrated empathy. There was an acknowledgement of the struggle. Then, there was encouragement — “I see what you are doing.” Empathy and encouragement. It’s impossible to argue that the world wouldn’t be a better place with more of both.

Here is the great thing about encouragement — giver and receiver benefit. So, instead of scrolling through your Twitter feed, watching the news, or engaging in an argument on Facebook, try writing a thank-you note or email, making a positive phone call, or find a way to let another human being know they matter.

Altruism or selfishness. Your choice.