Sorry, No Vacancy


What do you do with complainers?


We’re all a complainer to some degree. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t. But what about the career complainers? You know the ones who spin out their grievances like fly fishermen, who know more about their neighbours than they do.


I was one myself. And from my experience I have a theory. It has to do with self-centeredness.

When I was becoming chronically disabled from the life I used to know, from all that I couldn’t do, all that I used to do, the whole world shrank to revolve around me.

I had previously been taught that to get out of myself I was to do something for someone else, think of others. But how could I do that when I physically needed so much? What could I possibly do for others?


It took awhile but once I got accustomed to my new reality and realized it was my quality of life at stake, I got resourceful at thinking up ways I could give back to the world.

It started small and simple at first. Recycling. When MS first wanted to take over, I didn’t bring my own bags because it was one more thing to remember, to have to carry, or I’d forget them in the car and wouldn’t go all the way back to get them because my walking was difficult. Times that by a billion other little things that I used to do and you can see how shrunken and self-centered my world became. But in my heart I cared about God, His world, and His people.


I could’ve argued with myself that ten soup cans, or four jars weren’t going to make a difference in the big scheme of things compared to the corporate giants in their waste. But I didn’t live with the corporate giants. I lived with myself. And I felt better about myself when I washed out my ten soup cans and four jars regardless of what impact they made in the big picture. They made an impact in my life. I already accepted the fact anything took triple the effort and time, I just had to factor in some of those tasks because they fed my spirit.


It inspired me to make more time to ‘do what I could’. I turned off the TV and went back to recycling more, visited shut ins (usually by phone), and sent out a whole lot more notes and cards. I became open to what came my way. Someone volunteered me at a local dementia facility. They asked me to help work on ‘The Story Project’ – write a simple one-page synopsis for each of their 200 residents to hang at their door as conversation starters for staff and volunteers.


There’s one tiny lady in her 80’s there. She is completely paralyzed in a slouched, board-like position, non-verbal and dependant on 24-7 care. Yet her spirit is so alive. She has some movement in her mouth and she can half smile.


There is an 8-page booklet outside her door that describes her life and her unquenchable spirit. She survived a severe stroke at age 41 and had horrific hurdles sever since. Challenges we can’t imagine. Yet she continued to give back to her community, her world, the best she could. She started groups, and sat on boards. She built a life and went to the symphony, travelled the city on her scooter and got her first ever dog, Muffin (that’s when I discovered her half smile – at the mention of his name). She received many awards and continues to give back, even in her current state. I highly suspect she inspired the full scale ‘The Story Project’ taking place in the whole facility now.


So when busy bodies cross my path wanting to impart some privileged morsel against their neighbour, or some beef they really don’t want resolution to, my ‘SORRY, NO VACANCY’ sign flashes, and I smile politely. They soon realize I already checked out.

After all, its all about which box you feed, isn’t it?

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