My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. Hosea 11:8
One of the things that I expected when I started working in the island nations of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was a collision of cultures — the fast-paced, “move in,” “get it done” and “move on” routine that many of us in the cooler climate of the United States are used to and the leisurely-paced, “stop and smell the flowers,” “put off deciding till tomorrow” and a “wait and see what happens” hot climate routine to which many in the islands are accustomed.
What I did not expect was the effect this would have on me. I thought I could simply remain a casual observer of island cultural difference, attempt to appreciate and understand it and not have it affect me that much. In all actuality, I find myself often overwhelmed, anxious and even angry.
Adding to the effects of this cultural collision is the fact that I am 73 and I do not know how much longer my energy level will allow me to operate with the fierce intensity that I am accustomed to. I have this feeling when I am down there that I have no time to waste. “Hay must be made while the sun shines.” Things that need doing must get done.
As a result, I often find myself in a dead run, overwhelmed with the details of my own to-do lists. Missionary work is hard work and requires a truckload of focus, determination and patience — and when those things wear thin, I feel crushed by my own feelings of being overwhelmed.
There is something invigorating about not acting my age, but there is also a price to be paid. Overwhelming wearisomeness creeps in when I ignore it. I know that I take on more than many people my age and therefore I need to own the fact that most of what I “suffer” deserves no pity. It is self-inflicted. When I am extremely tired and details get out of control, the retirement demons always show up to torment me with their irritating taunts, “Why didn’t you just learn to play golf and move to Florida?”
Why do I do it? After serious reflection, there seem to be a few good reasons. 1. Rigorous activity, both physical and mental, is healthy. 2. I feel blessed and therefore obligated to share my gifts and talents as long and as broadly as possible. 3. I truly want to be “catholic,” seeking out experiences of the universal church. 4. I believe that walking in other people’s shoes, seeing the world from another’s perspective, brings me blessings that are best received face to face and in person. 5. As a driven person, I believe being in the island culture regularly is where I may best be able to learn patience for the day when fierce activity must be laid aside.
When it comes right down to it, I would choose being “overwhelmed” over “bored” any day!
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.