On Saturday, my phone rang. I was out running errands, and a friend of mine called asking for a favor. He was feeling ill and was hoping I could pick up some medicine for him. As luck would have it, I was already driving with my ten-month-old towards CVS for something else.
"No problem!" I told him. "I'm actually driving there now. Tell me what you need, and I'll bring it to you on my way home." And I smiled at the good fortune of a selfless deed lining up with my schedule so efficiently.
My friend knew precisely what he wanted: Severe Allergy & Sinus Headache (maximum strength). He uses this exact medicine every time he has sinus woes and would trust nothing less. I scanned the aisle. "Indoor/Outdoor Allergy." That's not it. "Allergy & Congestion Relief" Close, but no. "Sinus & Allergy Relief." No, but--wait now, how is that even any different? And so it was, walking up and down the aisle. So many contenders, yet none that matched my friend's request. This selfless deed was starting to try my patience.
I called him back in defeat. He still needed medicine, though. I reluctantly offered to go pick him up and bring him back to the store for him to choose. Oh and by the way, I had also agreed to get him an item from the grocery store as well. By the time I got to his house, he had fortunately found enough sinus medication to get him through. Good, I thought, no doubling back to the store. Instead, he asked me to drop him off at the library, which meant waiting for him to gather his things. At this point, my inconvenience alarm begins ringing in my ears. Wait no, that's the baby in my backseat who's naptime is drawing dangerously close. It's Saturday for crying out loud.
Now my friend was not at all unappreciative. (He even gave me a couple of bagels for my trouble.) He understood the inconvenience. He's just not afraid to ask. Likewise, I'm not afraid of saying no. I've turned him down many times on similar days. But I have a hunch that interruptions like this might actually be good for me. What if interruptions could expand our sense of hospitality the way traveling expands our worldview?
Life doesn't always allow us to be interrupted. It takes availability and preparation. And if the ability to be interrupted is indeed a discipline to be cultivated, I think we need a word for it like interruptibility.
Interruptibility is NOT aimlessness. It doesn't mean being a doormat or a yes-man. On the contrary, one must be diligent and focused because procrastination makes us unavailable for others in the end. Interruptibility means tending to business in order to be available when divine encounters come knocking. It means remembering that we are not promised this day and that our time is a gift from the Lord. It requires healthy boundaries while learning to be present in this moment. And interruptibility is not just about time. Interruptions also come knocking over our assumptions and annoyingly poking at our traditions. In that sense, interruptibility is releasing the tight grip we hold on our expectations, not just our schedules.
I did take my friend to the library. We even chatted in the parking lot for a bit while the baby slept in the car. He needed someone to listen to him more than sinus medication. I needed to be interrupted more than an efficient afternoon. The next day, my patience muscles were sore, but now I'm better for it. I probably would have said no to the whole adventure had I known what it would turn into. You might even say that--oh, hang on. Someone's calling me...