Inner City Diary
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How a simple 'thanks' restored my tired spirit
May 11, 2003
Sometimes I get tired.

I get tired of fighting. Fighting for issues, for buildings, for permits, permissions and funding. Fighting about zoning and licensing. Fighting to be understood, struggling to be accepted, pleading not to be rejected.

I get tired of waiting for bad guys and bullies to get busted. I see the black T-bird pull up in front of one of the neighbourhood drug houses. Dealers and prostitutes run back and forth from the house to cars of couriers and customers. Gangsters strut. We work with cops to get them busted. The courts spit in the face of cops and ship the crooks right back to the neighbourhood.

I get tired of waiting for good things to happen to good people. Some study and still fail. Some nice people are unsuccessful at work and unfulfilled in relationships. Some who left a life of crime are tempted to return because it’s usually harder going straight. I feel the pains of my friends.

I get tired of politics. People tell you they’re doing all they can while others insist they could do better. Occasionally, they change chairs. But all the promises, spin, polls and campaigns seem to change little for folks on my block.

I get tired of meetings. There’s so much talk without action, too much process without results. Too many people offer more complaints than assistance.

I get tired of unanswered questions and unresolved issues. I can handle a little tension in my life. But I’m haunted by new ideas and unfulfilled dreams. I wonder if efforts on issues, buildings and people are sometimes wasted. Sometimes it feels like one more unanswered question will be the one that “breaks the camel’s back.”

I get tired of my own limits and weaknesses. It would be great to be more efficient. Sometimes I fear being victimized by my own points of incompetence. I second-guess my advice, opinions, and decisions. No matter how loud the accolades, I sometimes feel that the best of our achievements are little more than a house of cards – so fragile that one strong breeze could make it all seem irrelevant.

So that’s the kind of week it was. I was getting pretty tired.

But eventually I got tired of feeling sorry for myself. Self-pity clouds my vision and poisons my voice. I whine about being tired and then tire of the sound of my own whining.

Usually I hide it, try to outrun my feelings. And usually, by the time my feelings catch up to me, they’ve mellowed and become more reasonable.

Sometimes, however, I get so tired I can’t outrun my feelings. Faith wavers and hopes dim. My feelings catch up to me and rough me up. I sit in my car between meetings crying and I don’t know why. I fantasize about being somewhere else, about quitting, all kinds of stupid thoughts.

Early Wednesday morning it all started catching up.

But a bureaucrat called to inform me that he understood how I felt and would try to help. And he offered more than talk. Thanks, Ray.

Later, I met a stranger who wanted to thank all those responsible for closing two drug houses on her street. She now felt safe walking to the store. She thanked me for my other work in the neighbourhood. I thanked her and turned away quickly. I didn’t want her to see my tears. Thanks, Rhonda.

Later I talked to a mom who knows exhaustion – she’s worked herself off assistance and done her best raising five kids alone amidst countless unanswered questions, unresolved conflicts and unrewarded efforts. Without telling me what to do, she said simply, “I trust you to do the right thing.” Thanks, Mona.

Everybody’s got trouble. And lots of people have more than me.

Today is Mother’s Day. I’ll call my mom to thank her for the countless times she worked through her feelings of being “tired” and times her love sustained her faith and hope. Enduring thankless jobs, rough coworkers, bad bosses, the pain of her kids, the misunderstandings of friends, the frustrations of community.

I’ll call my aunt, who never had kids of her own, but was always there for us – telling stories, kindling imagination, and working to help us succeed.

I’ll thank Virginia, my wife and mom of our three boys. There are times I compound her own exhaustion with my exasperation. And there are too many times I forget to say thanks for what she does and who she is.

And I’ll share the words of my friend Paul with all who are tired – “Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we’ll harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.”
Copyright 2003
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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(204) 775-4929