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  • Kelly Marks

A Cup of Tea

As someone who speaks in front of people or groups of people, I know how distracting it can be when even a couple of the audience members are distracted. For that reason when I'm in the audience I feel compelled to maintain visual focus with any speaker be it a preacher, a lecturer, or even a flight attendant when they give their safety spiel. I mean no one usually listens to them, but it just feels profoundly rude, especially considering that they hold the keys to the pretzel stash.


I remember a flight years ago that Paul and I took on Independence Air. It was a small airline that was based out of Dulles Airport in Washington, DC. For their safety speech they used a recording of James Carvel, a staunch Democrat who worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign, and his wife Mary Matalin, a staunch Republican who worked for George H. W. Bush’s campaign.


They explained, in between good-natured digs at the other, that whether you were on the “right” side of the plane or if you were part of the “left”, here were the exits, and then they went on to say in case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks would drop. If you were traveling with children you should place the mask on yourself first and then your child. If you were traveling with more than one child you should decide prior to takeoff which child was your favorite.


The whole plane laughed, and because it was funny, it stuck with me. I’ve thought about it many times since then. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help others. How many times do we run ourselves ragged taking care of others to the detriment of our own physical or mental health.


I heard a phrase our pastor used in a sermon a while back and it made a big impression. She called it serving from your saucer. Meaning if you serve from your cup, you’re pouring out the essential, the part you need, but if your cup is overflowing and you give from that excess, you don’t feel as depleted.


I wish I had known that when I was the caregiver for my mother-in-law after her stroke when she was struggling with dementia. I know many people, especially women, who are caring for small children, aging parents, an unwell partner or spouse or even just over-committing. These are taxing circumstances to say the least, and sometimes we forget that we can say NO, or we feel too guilty to do so.


Be it real or imagined, there is a stigma to saying NO. We are afraid of being perceived as selfish or not a team-player. For me, unfortunately, every opportunity looks like some kind of fun that I don’t want to miss out on so I say yes before I realize that there are other responsibilities and obligations on my calendar. Let’s call it a lack of discernment instead of calling it what it really is - idiotic.


This past week I received an email from Heidi, a woman I admire. She routinely performs the herculean task of pulling off an amazing week of Vacation Bible School. She is getting down to the wire and needs volunteers. In years past I would have said yes despite a crippling schedule and feelings of near panic. This time I honestly told her I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I could handle it.


And do you know what? Instead of doubting me or guilting me, she replied with a grace and understanding that made me feel happy and cared for and definitely understood. So for the time being I’m regrouping; I’m filling my cup till I have enough to serve from my saucer again. Maybe we should all consider doing this more often.




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