When the To-Do List Takes on a Life of Its Own

One of my responsibilities at work is coordination of my church’s relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For the past few months, this has mainly meant that I attempt to connect donations with people who have been displaced to Chicago. It has been the most rewarding and the most frustrating thing that I do. On good days, it has meant hands-on help of a couple who arrived in Chicago in September and stumbled into our church for help a few weeks later. They have been a joy and delight for each of us who has helped them.

On bad days, I’ve had to wade through the mess that these disasters have created even for those of us who want to help. Every avenue to do something good can feel like a confusing, twisted path, filled with obstacles. The obstacles have become a physical reality of my job. Last week, when I left for a Thanksgiving vacation, my work cubicle was sixty percent occupied by what seems like the entire boxed-up contents of an apartment, generously donanted, and still looking for the right place to go. Of course, ignoring the pile while I was gone did not make it go away. When I returned today, one of my co-workers had placed signs that say: “Erica’s Flea Market–No Offer Too Low.”

But another way to view that pile is not just as a physical manifestation of my To-Do List for the coming week. It is also a reminder that doing something good and worthwhile takes effort and time, and sometimes many, many phone calls.