During our multigenerational service this month, I shared a reading by Robert Fulghum. He tells a story about two young guys who are given an extra-credit challenge by their philosophy professor: Do something unique and memorable – not dangerous or foolish, but something creative, inventive and instructive. Write it up and explain what was learned and how it might apply to their philosophy of life.
The two students decide to eat a chair. Yes, they eat a chair—by slowly sanding a wooden chair down into sawdust, and eating a little bit of sawdust every day. It’s silly—it’s ridiculous—and it also reminded the students: “Amazing long-time goals can be achieved in incremental stages. Something seemingly idiotic affects your thinking about other things you do. …For all the goofiness of the project, these young men are learning patience and perseverance. Some things cannot be had except on a little-at-a-time, keep-the-long-goal-in-mind, stay-focused basis.”
And so our spiritual challenge this month of February is to take on that professor’s challenge for ourselves, and see how it changes us. Do something impossible. What is something you always thought you “can’t” do? Have you ever said some version of:
“I can’t draw. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t talk to that person. I can’t forgive him for that. I can’t read that. I can’t write that. I can’t pray. I can’t do…that!”
Well, you can’t eat a chair, either. At least not in one big bite. So make one tiny pivot in your thinking and give it a try.
Maybe you can’t draw like Michaelangelo. But you can doodle—so keep a pen and a pad of paper handy and try to doodle every day. Or get a coloring book and some Crayolas, and have at it.
Maybe you can’t dance like Martha Graham. But you can put on the radio and boogie to a song in the privacy of your own bedroom. What does it feel like to start the day by “shaking it off” like Taylor Swift or “twisting and shouting” like the Isley Brothers? Maybe you can’t get rid of racism, or oppression, or transphobia just by yourself.
But you can get connected with activists and ask what they need; you can take ten minutes and write a letter to your state representative; you can do something—however small—that makes your corner of the world a little more just, a little more kind.
Whatever it is, think of something you “can’t” do, and then find a way to do it. A little-at-a-time can go a long way to changing all of our lives.