Friday, March 30, 2012


It’s been one of those weeks. It seems that everyone has a case of the Mondays and here, where every day is the same, “Monday” takes on a perpetual quality. For whatever reason, this week we are all tired and cranky. I knew I was in bad shape when I jumped down one of my young soldier’s throats, just because she said she missed seeing me. Not one of my finer moments in ministry thus far yet very telling of my state of mind.

It’s hard to say what has precipitated this recent upsurge of grumpiness. There is likely more than one culprit. It seems to be the layering effect which eventually causes a breaking point for most of us. Lack of sleep, no space for escape, people constantly needy, very few real “breaks” from work-- I could go on. Of course, these have been our circumstances all along. So, why this week? And, it’s not just me. I have witnessed breakdowns throughout camp, and I have heard tales of snapping over the slightest thing. Over time stress builds up, and without a way to relieve the pressure, innocent passersby, and even friends, become collateral damage.

Normally, when grumpy, I try to stay away from people, particularly people that I care about. However, avoiding people here is next to impossible, not when there are counseling sessions to conduct, meetings to attend, and Holy Week services to plan. The last thing I want to do is spread angst. All around, people are struggling, and they don’t need a chaplain adding to their list of woes instead of mitigating them. I also know, like everyone else who is human, we all have bad days that we wish we could take back and moments we would like to do over. Thank goodness for grace. Though we might not be able to erase our foibles, we are able to face the following day knowing that it is not our circumstances which make or break us, but our attitudes, our approach to whatever challenge waits around the bend, which makes all the difference.

I realized yesterday afternoon, that I had quite a few pages unturned on my Mary Engelbreit daily calendar. Flipping to “Thursday,” I laughed as I read this message-- Must. Change. Attitude. All week I had been trying to accomplish this. Yet, no matter how many times I told myself I was done with complaining, I wasn’t cooperating. My laundry list of complaints was much longer than my list of gratitude.

Earlier this week, Operation Pencil, a service organization in Bagram which supplies Afghan students with school supplies, received a major donation from Staples. As thrilling as it was to get the news that the boxes, literally hundreds of pounds of materials, had arrived, my first thought was panic. How we were going to “pick up” and then transport these pallets of supplies, I did not know. Holy Week was right around the corner. The last thing I needed this week was one more thing to worry about.

As this all unfolded, though, I was amazed at all those who were willing to help, who were also ready to rearrange their schedules and call in favors to help us out. As I bumped along in a 5-ton, Vietnam era truck, over to the cargo yard to claim our school supplies, I marveled silently at the soldiers and sailors committed to doing something, anything, which might make a positive difference in the lives of Afghan children, many of whom they may never meet. Most of our volunteers work twelve hour shifts, starting at 0430 each morning. I would think that “crashing” after work would be the first thing on their list after such long days. Yet, I continue to be inspired when they show up, ready to give what little time they have.

If my soldiers and sailors can rise to the occasion this week, then so can I. Sometimes it takes just the right person or event to be that needed “wake up” call. Some days, it is an uphill battle, but I know I can’t succumb to a permanent case of the “Mondays.” There will always be work to accomplish and a “to do” list which never seems to get any shorter. But, on our best days, we recognize when to set it all aside and engage in the here and now, when to give that person who is struggling, too, a bit of time and compassion. Just a few minutes of positive energy may be just what is needed to help them get back on track and remember that despite all the reasons for complaining, there are many, many more reasons to be thankful.

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