This afternoon I felt ancy. I didn’t have any immediate work to complete and for some reason I didn’t want to sit at my desk. A glance at the schedule told me the eighth graders were in P.E. so I mosied up to the gym to watch them. The women and men were playing alternating five minute soccer games. When I arrived the women were playing. One boy, Tatsuya, asked if I wanted to join. I couldn’t tell if he was being serious, so I declined. When the men played I noticed the teacher joined in to even up the teams. The women came back out and this time I counted and noticed the teams were uneven. Quickly asking the P.E. teacher for permission to join in, I asked around to see which boys were wearing sneakers in my shoe size. Tatsuya wore the right size but begged off at first, saying his feet were stinky. After a moment, and a look at my shoes, he let me borrow them.
I played two rounds with the ladies. Frankly, I’m not very good. My ball handling skills could use a lot of work, I haven’t the foggiest when I am off sides, and both times I attempted a goal I kicked straight to the goalie.
But here is the thing: at the end of the period, walking back to my desk, I realized that for those twenty minutes my imperfections weren’t just okay, they were exactly what was needed.
I’ve often thought of working on my soccer skills. I even bought a soccer ball two years ago but never actually practiced with it. I could kick myself for all of the mistakes I made today. The girls I played with, however, aren’t any better than me. Some of them are probably worse. They didn’t need a Mia Hamm out there dominating the field. They just needed another person on par with their skill level.
Another thing: my shoe size. I accept it as a quirk about the culture in which I’m immersed that my feet are the Japanese equivalent of huge. In America I wear an 8.5. meaning the only time I can’t find shoes are during the 80% off sales when the stock is made up of “huge” and “tiny.” I don’t buy a lot of shoes in Japan. Sneakers are easy because I shop the men’s section. At the bowling alley I know who else wears my size. And a recent conversation with my athletic, manly principal taught me that he and I could trade if need be. Today though, today wearing men’s sizes was perfect. All of the women needed their shoes during the game while the men didn’t. If I shared a size with the women, I would have been playing in my loafers. It wasn’t a miracle I could find shoes that fit from the men on the sidelines. In fact I ASSUMED I would find shoes that fit.
Because sometimes being me isn’t just good enough, it’s perfect.
Today I wrote Christmas cards at work. My grandparents live in a retirement community and as people downsize, my grandparents take their odds and ends and distribute them to their grandchildren. I’ve accepted a lot of the blank, mismatched Christmas cards, and this year I realized I have enough to give one to every student at my school. So there I was, writing simple lines that I hope the students will understand.
Suddenly a song lyric passed through my head. “Nothing is wasted.” It’s a song by Jason Gray. “Nothing is wasted,” he sings, “In the hands of our redeemer nothing is wasted.”
I thought for a moment of the people who had originally bought each card. They finished their lists and had one, or two, or a dozen cards left over. “What a waste!” they may have thought. “Why did we buy all of these?” “What a waste!” they may have though again as they or their children downsized into a smaller apartment. “Why did we hang onto these for so many years?”
But it wasn’t a waste. Not ultimately. I’ve found Christmas cards in Japan but they are expensive: at least $1 a piece, usually more. I can’t afford to buy a card for every student. But I did manage to find space in my suitcase for this collection, a collection some might have told me was wasted space. So much waste. But because of this waste, these students are receiving the only Christmas card they may ever get. That could be a trifling. Christmas cards aren’t food or water or clothing. These kids aren’t dying, at least not very quickly. I like to think, however, that there is a point to me giving them. Maybe some kids won’t care. But maybe others will feel more loved because of that Christmas card.
Nothing is wasted. In the hands of our redeemer nothing is wasted. Even as I wrote today, I was filled with gratitude for all of the people along the way who “wasted” time, energy, and effort getting these kids Christmas cards.