burnt-out or something like that
by Kayla Raymond
I really hate the term. I feel like it’s an excuse. Maybe it’s a real thing, I am not sure.
I think I may have come close to it, however.
It’s like I am really tired, but wide-awake. It’s like I have 100 things on my to-do list, but feel like there’s nothing to do. It’s like I am so glad to be here, but want to run away.
Last week Monday, I commuted to work in the city and found myself with a flat tire on the way home. Of course, as my dad was about to change the tire, sheets of rain fell on us. After waiting out the rain, my tire was fixed and we made our way home, with some delays, of course. The traffic was way backed up at one point because water was covering the highway. Further down the road children were running in the puddles with no shoes on. Water was running from all directions, trying to find a place to drain. Homes were being flooded as men were redirecting floating piles of trash with long sticks.
Tuesday, school registration started. Moms came with their children and presented their children’s report cards to me. Many of the cards had been soaked in the rain. Because, when you keep all your documents in a suitcase under your bed and the rain comes in a flash, the odds are your suitcase will get full of water.
Thursday, a visiting group and myself delivered bunk beds to families who received new homes back in March. We came upon Nata’s house. Oh, this lady can get excited! When we came up to her house, she was sitting on a rock washing her clothes by hand. She started jumping with excitement when I told her we were there to bring her a new bed. She showed us inside and kissed all of the team members as they entered. She continually raised her hands in the air saying “Mesi Senye” (thank you Lord). We put her bed together, snapped a picture on the bed as she hugged me and then, I looked up.
In her roof were large holes and dents. I asked where they came from and she explained how people throw rocks at her house at night because they don’t believe she deserved a “new home.” Like, seriously!? This woman has a childlike faith, a contagious joy and has raised 7 children on her own. What she deserves is a pat on the back! But, people in her neighborhood think she is “dirty” and undeserving.
My heart breaks.
Like, can’t these people just catch a break?
I think of how ridiculous I am for always being tired. The thought of making excuses for being burnt-out seems so foolish as people are living in such horrific situations. Their lives are always at risk when the thunderclouds come lingering over the mountains.
There’s the heat. The carrying of water. The washing clothes by hand. The not knowing if they will fill their babies’ bellies. The coughs, infections, fevers and illnesses that hover. The access to no clean water or convenient healthcare. The walking miles every day because they don’t have cars. The sleeping on the floor or pieces of cardboard.
Then there is the injustice. The illiteracy. The bullying. The oppression. It’s like there is just some universal fist just pushing and holding them down. It makes me hardly breathe.
Their strength, though, is that of a superhero. How do their bodies do it?
And because we are educated, have access to everything at the tip of our fingers and come from America; we can use the word burnt-out while serving the poor. Because, how I see it, we think and believe we are giving up oh, so much to serve. So, we can consider ourselves over it when we have had enough.
How fortunate we are to have a way out. A passport. A savings account. A way to go back.
I can only imagine how truly burnt-out we would be if we were the poor.
Yesterday, I had a day out with my husband. I hadn’t spent “quality” time with him in over a month and we thought it would be wise to spend time looking at each other and conversing. It’s usually good to do that, for the both of us. We had lunch, bought groceries and held hands. A date in Haiti doesn’t get much fancier. But as my husband would say, “it is what it is.” And, I’m fortunate to have a husband who can drive me to the city and buy a nice meal for me.
He’s the only person who knows how I tired I get. When people knock on the gate, it’s our gate they are knocking on. When someone asks me for something, I send him or her to Webert and he sends him or her back to me. We are a team. I complain to him and he sometimes complains back, but usually he shrugs it off. When I cry from all the pressure, he wipes the tears.
Yesterday, as we left the grocery store together, with our back seat full of food (I know, the irony. I can barely buy groceries without feeling guilty), I watched an elderly woman on the corner.
Traffic was moving slow, so I had enough time to embrace her existence. She stumbled with a walking stick in one hand and a small cup to wave in front of people for their spare change in the other. Her shoes were old and her burgundy dress was worn and faded. She had years of untold stories in her wrinkles. I could see the calloused hands from where I sat. Maybe life had been good to her at one point, but it looked like it had been hard. Maybe always had been. It took her five seconds to take each step and I couldn’t help but wonder where she laid her head at night.
Her entire being read burnt-out as the Holy Spirit fueled my veins.
After watching this woman, I squeezed my husband’s hand a little harder. We didn’t talk about her. He probably didn’t even notice her. I think she was there just for me.
I later made a promise to God. Because, these past couple weeks I haven’t felt alive. I’ve been pondering this entire idea and the state of being burnt-out. Because, what if that’s where I am? I’ve let to-do lists, emails, flooded homes, the lack of resources, the state of the poor and the state of the rich consume my spirit into a state of burden, unrest and, dare I say it, anger.
I promised God I would stop. I would stop doubting His plan and His future for my family and me. I would stop complaining. I would stop relying on my own strength. I would stop judging His justice for who gets what and how much of it, because He’s God and who I am to question that? I promised I would stop judging people for how they use their resources. I need to let it go. I have got to let it go.
Because, I need to. I have to if I am going to finish this race.
I keep thinking of this little old lady on the street corner. She led me to this prayer. She made me see something that I have yet to understand. She made me realize I am far from being burnt-out and that what I have “given up” is nothing in comparison to what she has never had. She has inspired me to cling tighter to what I have been given as well.
I saw her as a human in that moment. I wondered what it would be like to walk in her shoes. I wonder how hard it must be each day to wake up and the reality of your life be sitting on a street corner, shaking a cup and looking for change. I wonder how much pain she is in. Both physically and spiritually. Is she ready to go home? You know, to the eternal home.
This woman. This tiny, slow, wrinkled woman made me look towards heaven in a very real way yesterday.
I don’t think it is burnt-out. If our strength comes from Lord, He wouldn’t let that flame burn out. I think burnt-out is still an earthly excuse. A selfish one, even. A reason to quit. If our strength comes from the Lord, He won’t allow us to quit until He calls us home.
This woman, she reminded me where we are headed. All of us. We, humans, are all headed home, it is just of matter of time until He calls us.
Am I ready to go? Yes.
Am I ready for the suffering and pain to be over? Yes.
Am I ready to spend eternity in a perfect place? Yes.
But, until I go, I am going to live busy and tired. I am obligated to make this place better. I am going to try and make a difference. Small or big, I don’t even care. I will live joyfully. I will stop seeing the poor as a burden and start seeing them as people. I will stop using excuses and being burnt-out.
I promised I would live zealously. So, here’s to living it.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. -Romans 12:11