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I realized last week that I’m not nearly as sensitive and in tune as I should be to people’s lives. My girlfriend and I are generally very forgiving of each other on this. “I’m sorry I forgot to call and see how your trip went,” I’d say and she’d respond, “I can’t even keep up with my own life, let alone your schedule. Don’t worry about it.” And that is nice. I relax into the comfort of unconditional love.

But then something like the disasters in Japan happen and I don’t immediately think about the people in my life who have ties there somehow. This one has family on the west coast where effects were expected to spill over, that one has family in Japan, another did a semester abroad and probably is worried about his “host family,” and yet it takes a few days for me to make those connections, and sometimes it takes reminders by others.  I’m amazed at how much smaller the world has gotten. And disappointed that I don’t make immediate connections regarding the personal impact this has on people.

And Japan is but one example. There are others. I care about people. Relationships are a big value in my life. So I am tying to find ways to improve in this area. How can I be more proactive and thoughtful about what others are going through and reach out to them at important times? I need to more intentionally reflect on these things. This is another reason to keep life more simple. A full schedule and list of obligations makes it less likely for me to be spontaneous and thoughtful. Reducing stress enhances the probability of actions that strengthen relationships.

I heard about a study on this. The study was with seminary students, some on their way to talk about the parable of the good Samaritan, others on their way to something else. Some students were given a stronger sense of urgency to get to their next meeting. All had the opportunity to help someone along the way. The more hurried the students were, the less likely they were to help the unexpected stranger along the way.

I am almost always fighting the urge to fill my plate. I have a lot of interests, a lot of opportunities to be “involved.” My husband doesn’t have the same struggle. He enjoys a more relaxed pace, which is good for me. I’m learning how to find a better balance. And I’m encouraged by the idea that to fulfill the value of strong relationships, it’s important that I am selective in how I spend my time. That’s not always easy. So many things are good (enough) but not everything is beneficial (enough). Oh for the wisdom to know the difference.