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Seek First . . .
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Photo: Carl Dwyer
The flight attendant held up the oxygen mask, pantomimed placing it over her mouth and nose, tugged the strap that would tighten it around her head and moved on to explaining the seat cushion floatation device. I usually kept my head tucked into my book during these monotone speeches, but this time her words jogged my thoughts. While it struck me as odd that airline policy would encourage passengers to let the person beside them struggle for breath while they took time to secure their own oxygen mask, it made sense that outfitting themselves first would give them more breath to help individuals who may be having problems.

Our daily lives are sometimes a little like an airline disaster. From sunup to sundown, most of us rush from one thing to another, troubling ourselves with the problems and needs of others. But if not replenished, our supply of giving energy soon dwindles and makes the small needs of others feel like major chores. There are times when only by helping ourselves first can we continue to give to others.

Our lives are full of chances to put others first. As children we learned to share our toys, listen first and talk second, and give the first turn to someone else. As adults, we are constantly required to give of ourselves. We expend effort on projects at work, maintain friendships and relationships through phone calls and face-to-face chats, clean the house and buy the groceries. PTA meetings, volunteer positions, church functions and a myriad of other duties stretch us so thin.

But there are moments when we need to listen to our own needs in order to better serve others in the long run. A few quiet minutes spent in prayer or meditation can clear our minds and make us more effective in the time we have. A walk can stretch our legs and increase our patience. Taking a three-minute break from our worries can renew our stamina to attack problems and challenges with a fresh mindset.

Angry Letters

Recently I read an essay by a woman who had received an outpouring of angry letters after divulging to a talk show audience that she loved her husband more than she loved her children. It was a common sense statement to me, but it obviously took many by surprise. In her essay, the author made no apologies and simply stated that she knew keeping her marriage healthy was what most strengthened their family’s bonds.

Parallel to tightening your own oxygen mask first, this woman had discovered the not-so-secret that too many of us forget. If we are to survive this tragic world with our dignity and peace intact, we must learn to keep our hearts in tune with God, with our spouse and family, with our church and with our community, country and earth—in that order. No other way will we find the peace, solace, and life-sustaining gifts God has to offer each of us.

In Matthew 6:33, Christ admonishes us to seek His kingdom before we search for anything else. I believe that’s our Father’s way of telling us to make sure we are hooked up to His life-giving energy before we try to help others.

By taking time to first nourish our own needs, we will be better prepared to help those around us. And being plugged in to God’s power can only make us better ambassadors for Him.

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By Lauren Schwarz. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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