If I don’t do it, it won’t be done.
Too often those words run through my head. And too often, the tone accompanying them is annoyance, frustration, and certainly a bit of exhaustion. My list of things to do seems nearly endless, and I never complete everything on it.
My bathroom rarely gets a good scrub. I vacuum far less than my home needs. I haven’t washed a mirror or a window in probably a year.
It’s more than just chores, though, that prompt this train of thought.
When my babies wake up impatiently and don’t want to wait another minute in their beds: If I don’t get them up, no one will.
When I’d rather take a nap than make dinner: If I don’t make us something to eat, no one will.
When yet another diaper needs to be changed. When the laundry needs to be folded. When mouths need to be wiped, blocks picked up, bumps kissed, and peanut butter and jellies prepared.
If I don’t do this, no one else will.
I’m ashamed to admit this is a complaint. Ashamed to think it, ashamed that I can sometimes resent this position in life, these days of small tasks.
We all have these moments, right? Whether we stay home with children, or go to an office full-time, or attend school. We all are faced with tasks that require us—and sometimes only us—to actually do them. These tasks ask us to have humility and a willingness to accept them and resolve to simply apply ourself to what is given. They are usually the small, unglamorous, dirty tasks like washing the extra coffee cups piled in the sink at the office, or cleaning the toothpaste off the vanity, or letting another car move in front of us in traffic.
If I don’t do this, who will?
I don’t want to stop thinking this. These words can be the opposite of a complaint. I want to think them and to realize the position I am in as I say these words.
These words present me, each time, with a beautiful opportunity.
These words indicate the greatest, most important tasks that are given to me. Truly, the tasks that I alone have been asked to do, the tasks that go overlooked or undervalued or forgotten altogether, are those that are richest with meaning. And the saints are those who fully accepted and embraced these exact moments.
Oscar Romero spoke out against poverty, injustice, and oppression. If he had not spoken, who would have?
Maximillian Kolbe volunteered to die in the place of a stranger in Auschwitz. If he had not volunteered, who would have?
Mother Teresa went to the Indian slums and offered its people love, and care. If she had not gone, who would have?
These acts of the saints sound like great acts, but in each moment, I am sure they were simply what must be done. If they didn’t meet the need they saw, who would?
If I don’t do this, who will?
That is a unique position, indeed. Even something as seemingly insignificant as changing a diaper offers the chance for me to meet the need of another human being. Making dinner, cleaning up toys, offering understanding and patience to my children. These are all small, daily moments, yes, but they are privileges that require me to accept them and embrace them with all that I am. For, indeed, I was made for these moments.
I must do this, for if I don’t, what else would I do?