In the Shriver household, the morning did not start well. I knew it was cold, so as soon as I woke up, I checked my phone. Yep. School’s closed. Today was a Snow Day. Well, to be precise, today was a Cold Weather Day. The local school district, where my two sons are enrolled, closes whenever the morning temperature is too low. Something reasonable about not wanting children to freeze while waiting for the bus or whatever.
Between my husband and me there was plenty of grumbling, some horse-trading around who had to stay home this time, and a few not-safe-for-church words sent in the general direction of the school district. These past three weeks have been hard. Three sick days, two midwinter break days (why!?), two cold weather days, two snow days, and…wait for it…five regular school days. Five. It hasn’t been a recipe for a happy family or a productive work life for either of us. As I said, it’s been a hard three weeks.
And so, on this cold weather day, we settled on a compromise: Kelly would be home for the morning, John would take the afternoon shift, and we’d both work from home after bedtime. Sigh. Another snow day, solved? Resolved? Resigned to? I don’t even know how to think about it anymore. I’m just so tired.
But then, today, something in me shifted. I was sitting there, on the couch, browsing my phone, keeping one lazy eye on the kids (they were ripping things up, but those documents weren’t that important, right?), and I ran across a Facebook post from a friend. Her school district was open, despite crippling snow in her area, and she was giving thanks. Not to gloat about her ability to go to work, not to rub it in my face that her kids got to go to school, but because the 50,000 kids in her county who rely on free lunch would get to eat that day. And it made me pause: 50,000 kids get to eat.
It took 50,000 kids and a Facebook post to jar my brain enough to pan out and see the larger scope. Like Ana and her melting frozen heart…or maybe I’ve just seen Frozen too many times in the past three weeks. Sure, it was easy for me to complain about lost productivity, but what about the others? What about those parents who didn’t serve a beautiful, compassionate church that allows me all the flexibility in the world when it comes to my family? What about those parents whose partners don’t work in flexible, family friendly offices, or even more so, don’t have a partner to rely on? What about those kids who won’t eat without a free breakfast and lunch? What about those kids whose houses aren’t kept warm enough, because of the heating bill? What about those younger kids left alone, because mom and dad have no choice but to work? What about the seniors whose Meals on Wheels won’t be delivered, because they’re tied to the closure schedule of the local school district? What about the others whose lives are far more deeply impacted by a snow day than my own?
Don’t get me wrong, my lizard brain, the bit of me that dwells solely on Kelly and her perceived needs, is still having a field day with this. I can’t stop myself from worrying and complaining about the personal inconvenience caused by this snow day. It’s selfish, but true.
And at the same time, 50,000 kids and a Facebook post reminded me: I really am going to be fine. Some compassionate part of me is starting to see what a snow day does to the children, families, and community around me. And, I guess, part of me is starting to fight back against my own, selfish lizard brain, melting a bit of that frozen heart. To take notice of the people around me who are invisible, whose inconvenience is far more severe than my own, and to give thanks for my sweet church and my husband’s flexible job.
In a larger sense, as a pastor and not just a mom, I’m being called back, once more, into the pulpit on Sunday morning humbled, reminded that a bit of compassion, a larger view of community, is what God asks of us. It’s a question that for me, once asked, I can’t forget. It’s a question that I feel I need to ask of my church (which happens to sit less than 100 yards away from the town elementary school). It’s a question about how knowing and seeing the needs of others may begin to translate into finding a way to serve and care for the neighbors around us—in the surprising and new ways God may be calling me, calling my family, calling my church, calling us.