* Dedicated to a beautiful gypsy warrior named Beth
I put my earphones in. I pushed ‘play’ on my new favorite band that recently opened for Mat Kearney. I set out to walk toward a little clarity, but it arrived much sooner than expected. Something that had been weighing on my heart all day suddenly became so clear. It was an answer to a question that had become my hourly prayer. With tear-filled eyes, I began typing a text message as fast as my little pointer finger could type.
A man walking his dog approached me from the other direction. I smiled warmly at them and said, “Good evening.” That’s when the man said, “Are you going to look at your phone the whole time you walk?”
All at once, shame washed over me. I was brought back to a painful time in my life when my phone was an extremity … when the ding of electronic notifications pulled me away from loving eyes and tender arms … when I took dangerous risks at stoplights and justified them with flimsy excuses. All at once, I felt like that distracted, overwhelmed woman who once came painfully close to losing everything that mattered most.
I almost kept walking. I almost lowered my face in shame. I almost berated myself. But I am not that person anymore.
And there was something that needed to be said, so I stopped walking.
With a surprisingly warm and forgiving voice, I spoke to the man … or perhaps the birds … or perhaps the heavenly evening sky.
“My dear friend’s sister died today. And all day I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how I can help her. And just now as I was walking, it came to me: I can write words for her. I can write a eulogy or I can write a keepsake. My dear friend told me she didn’t have any words, but I do. I have words. And just now, I was letting her know I have words for her.”
The man said, “Oh,” like I just told him I was putting broccoli on my grocery list.
And then he kept walking.
I thought I was finished. I thought I’d said what needed to be said, but I wasn’t finished. There was something else that needed to be said. And it kind of surprised me because I had some ugly thoughts going through my head about the man’s question to me. But I called out to the man … or perhaps to the birds … or perhaps to the heavenly evening sky.
“I hope when you are in need, someone is there for you.”
And then I walked for thirty more minutes as the sun descended around me. And when I got back home, my Tiny Topics notebook that I carry with me when I walk contained a new message. Maybe it’s for you. Maybe it’s for someone you know. Maybe it’s for all of us at one time or another.
That Is My Hope
When you find yourself at the end of your rope, I hope someone pulls you back.
When you feel alone, I hope someone sits beside you.
When you find yourself enveloped in the shadows, I hope someone shines a light.
That is my hope.
When you are most uncertain, I hope someone gives you assurance.
When you are most judged, I hope someone defends you.
When you find yourself so different than the rest, I hope someone spots a common thread that binds you together.
That is my hope.
When you don’t have the words, I hope someone speaks them for you.
When you are lost, I hope someone leads you home.
When you bleed, I hope someone applies pressure.
That is my hope.
When you bravely sing out, I hope someone’s voice joins in.
When you wonder if you matter, I hope someone reminds you that you do.
When you cry out in question, I hope someone answers.
That is my hope.
Why such hopes? Because life is too short to be lived without them. I know. I know. We’ve heard the phrase “life is too short” to the point it sounds completely meaningless. But today, today, a 46-year-old mother warrior left too soon. And “life is too short” had new meaning when human fragility collided with human hostility on a sidewalk illuminated by the evening sun.
Suddenly that overused phrase “life is too short” were no longer words, but an anthem—an anthem for bringing more living and loving into our precious days. It sounded like this:
Life is too short for shame.
Life is too short for judgment.
Life is way too short to live in regret over what you did or didn’t do yesterday.
Life is too short to stop brainstorming ways to help a friend.
Life is too short to speak unkind words to a stranger.
Life is too short to ruin good walks with vengeful thoughts.
So when you find yourself on one side or the other,
Even if you have to say it to the birds or to the heavenly sky.
Choose love for that person crossing your path.
Because you just never know what ride she’s coming off of
Or where he’s going
Or where she’s been.
Choose love. I hope it comes back to you when you need it most.
Friends of the Hands Free Revolution, when my friend and her sister found themselves facing a very difficult road in their cancer journey , I reached out to my friend Garth, The Napkin Notes Dad and asked for recommended resources. He suggested these very helpful books: Radical Remission, Shrinkage, and What It Takes. I would also like to share what Garth wrote about my forthcoming book, HANDS FREE LIFE. It is everything I hoped someone would find when he or she read the pages. It is exactly why I hope the book reaches anyone searching for concrete ways to stop managing life and start living it.
“It took one day. I only could allow one day to read ‘Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More’. I was busy being a dad, a husband, and cancer patient. I knew I was distracted, but there was a purpose. I was on a mission and I acknowledged my limited time left. As I settled in to read Rachel's words, my heart stayed in my throat the entire journey. She gets it. She knows we're distracted and it's not just the amount of screens we have in our lives. It's our incredibly complex, crazy, and somewhat out of control lives.
Rachel Macy Stafford will help you reconnect and build strong relationships. Even if you make a moderate amount of effort, your family will thank you for strengthening your relationships! Once again, I owe Rachel a big ‘thank you’ for bringing relationships and family to the forefront of everyone's minds.”
—Garth Callaghan, The Napkin Notes Dad
Lastly, thank you for the wonderful response to the new “I Choose Love” bracelets. Our talented artists in PA have made more and they are available today in the Hands Free Shop. Thank you for your incredible support that allows me to keep writing and sharing this journey with you. You are my daily blessing.