When I was in middle and high school, my older sister had the coolest best friend. She over-flowed with a bubbly confidence. Her constant gum-chewing gave her a nonchalance I envied. She perfected a wink that punctuated her statements with self-assurance.
Not one to wear the latest fashion, (During the Keds craze, my sisters and I drew blue rectangles on the back of our Walmart sneakers to give the near-sighted passerby the impression we were wearing the real thing. It was a temporary fix, unfortunately, because we used dry erase markers.) I was always thrilled when I got her hand-me-downs. She knew how to dress and fix her hair. She was a cheerleader and she had a boyfriend whose letter jacket she often wore. There was something so effortless about her sophistication.
As a chronic over-thinker, I felt like an awkward goofball in her presence. I studied her winking and tried to incorporate it into my conversations but it didn’t work. Instead, people asked me if I had something in my eye. I couldn’t keep up with the fashion trends, even if I knew what they were. I didn’t have a boyfriend and I wasn’t a cheerleader. I came to realize I would never achieve the level of coolness I saw in my sister’s friend.
Now that I am old(er), I see cool in a different way. When friends arrange a birthday lunch for me or a prayer session for our pending adoption, I see cool. When my husband works hard all day then comes home to play soccer outside with our son even though he’s exhausted, I see cool. When teachers use their free time to work with struggling kids and their own money to buy these kids books at the Book Fair, I see cool.
The lack of effort used to impress me. That’s the false claim of youth: Don’t act like you care. Now I’m impressed when I see someone exert an effort they didn’t know they had to do the things that need to be done without expecting anything in return. Giving that last bit of energy or brainpower or spending money is what amazes me now. It would be so easy just to let someone else make the effort. What if we all stopped coloring the back of our sneakers and got busy being the real thing—the hands and feet of Jesus?