A Growling Laptop and Good Works

I had a lot to do yesterday afternoon. I had to catalog books. I had to update borrowing records. I had to work on an online archival project. And fueled by green tea and a wholesome lunch, I knew that I could do it. Then my laptop developed indigestion.

It woke up from its hibernate mode with a grinding, howling roar as it convulsively shook itself up and down on my desk. I powered it down. I can take a hint.

It was too late in the day for our tech people to come look at it. Sighing, I got up from my chair and walked to the center of my office. What should I do now? There were a few shelves in my office overrun by old book boxes, video tapes, and plastic bags. I am always meaning to organize it, but other more pressing things always get my attention. Since I couldn’t attend to the usual pressing things, I had an afternoon to organize it. It only took me an hour. At the end of the hour, I had five empty shelves in which I could create an overflow section for books that I need to catalog. Emboldened by my success, I shelved books in the main stacks, rethought the way I catalog books, and worked on this blog–carefully tapping out words and sentences on my iPhone’s small screen.

As I locked my office door that night, I found myself wondering: Was today a failure or a success? I didn’t get to cross anything off of my  anticipated “to do” list, but I stepped away from a clean and organized office. When my laptop gets fixed, my work will be even more efficient because of what I did today. I failed, yet in the midst of that failure, I accomplished vital things. Walking out into the New Haven night, a passage from Matthew drifted to me on the crisp, November air: “…seek first the kingdom of God and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Today I had my share of professional evils, but even in the wake of a growling laptop, God gave me plenty of good work to do.

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