It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone. I like volunteering at my kids’ schools. I wish I loved it, but the idea of having a weekly commitment makes me itchy and takes the joy out of it for me. I’ve done the weekly commitments but sporadic volunteering is by far my strength. That is what I like. Specifically, the book fair. I like the book fair because I love books. And shopping. This combines the two for a good cause! Plus, I can score some great deals on Christmas gifts. It’s literally the perfect gig for me.
A few weeks back, was the fall book fair. I’m sure you’ve seen a similar set up before. Large metal bookshelf carts form a large horseshoe in the center of the school library. Brightly colored tables display books for every age. It’s a visual reminder to me of my children sitting on my lap with plump board books, now curled onto the sofa with chapter books I’m not a part of. Some books have memories and some I wish I had a child small enough to buy it for.
That night, I stood near a table of posters and books, watching families weave through the maze of shelves. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an older man with a young boy walk into the library. Grandparents and grand kids aren’t an unusual sight at these events, but something about these two caught my attention.
Most kids jog into the book fair. Or at the very least power walk. This boy walked in slowly, almost unsure if he should even be there. He paused next to the first metal cart, briefly inspecting the chocolate calculators no child can resist touching, before his eyes fell on a table full of his favorite books.
Silently, he approached the table and began flipping through the pages of each book. I wasn’t the only one who took notice and soon his grandpa was by his side asking him questions about the books. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation:
“Do you like these books? Have you read them”
“My teacher has them. She lets me read hers. I read this one, but she doesn’t have all the other ones.”
“You can read them though? The words make sense and you like the stories?”
“Yeah, I like them a lot.”
“We should get you one. Everyone should have a book to read. Which one do you need next?”
“Are you sure? How much are these?” the boy held up the book and the man looked around the table for a price sign.
“I don’t know. I don’t see a sign and I don’t really know how books work,” he took the book from the boy, flipping through the pages and spinning it in his hands trying to spot a price to no avail.
“Its ok grandpa, I can get it at the library,” he reached for the book to place it back on the table, but his grandpa pulled in back.
“No. This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important, we’re finding someone to help.”
It took all my self-restraint not to buy every book on the table for the boy. When grandpa and I made eye contact, I stepped in to tell them the price of the book they were holding. He asked if I could show him and his grandson “how books work”. I gave them a quick crash course on where to find book prices, what the book is about, and what number it is if it’s part of a series. Things I take for granted that my children and I know, were totally new info for the two standing before me. They paid for the book and left. I returned to where I was watching the book browsers but I couldn’t quite shake the older man’s words.
“This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important. We’ll find someone to help.”
They could have said nothing and walked away. The grandpa could have been so ashamed about his lack of book knowledge he directed his grandson back out into the hallway. He could have just thrown the book on the counter and prayed the cost wasn’t going to be something out of his budget when it was rung up. Instead, he admitted he was not an expert, did not shy away from asking for help, and made sure they got what they needed before heading out that evening. Not only did he step out of his comfort zone – he bravely long jumped himself into the unknown.
That’s kind of how I feel about my journey in life and wherever this is going. I do not know it all. I am actively still in the middle of figuring things out. The only thing I am really sure of is how important it is to share, even if I need help along the way. I am not an expert on many things. I hold no fancy degrees in psychology, social work, Christian studies, writing, the Bible, marketing, or depression. I can still know those things are important. Instead of hiding away, I can find the help I need to get the outcome I want and share what I learn with anyone else in need.
I think that’s something a lot of people allow to hold them back. I am totally guilty of it. I see people doing or achieving things I want to, then I quickly assess my progress toward those goals. If I am not on par with them or at least catching up, I immediately believe I am not as good as them. The idea of working through those feelings or getting help doesn’t cross my mind. You’ve either got “it” or you don’t, right? I know I’m not the only one carrying these ridiculously high standards with me.
I wonder how many amazing things I have missed out on because I didn’t feel I was an expert at it soon enough. How many things have we all missed out on which could have helped improve our lives or the lives of others? Why do we let doubt and fear take the wheel so often? Why do we act like we can only do the things we already know? When you step out of your comfort zone, you take back control.
If a man in his 70s can wander into an elementary school library and admit to his grandson, then a woman he never met before, he doesn’t know how books work – we can chase after our dreams. If he can stand there, surrounded by Captain Underpants, Dogman, and Baby Shark books while he learns where to find information on a book sleeve without an ounce of embarrassment – we can ask questions and allow others to guide us too. You just need to step out of your comfort zone.
If you don’t know how, but know its important – do it. Do it scared, unsure, shaky, and uncertain – but do it.