By Jenna Ebener
Recently, I was trail running in the mountains with my running group. Trail runs typically start in one direction: up. We were only a half-mile into our run and steadily gaining elevation. All I could think of was that my body was so tired. I was already deciding that I would run the four-mile loop instead of six or eight. Then I started reflecting.
I feel like this is the time of year when you ask someone how they are and they often respond with something along the lines of “tired.” Perhaps it is the dreariness that winter can sometimes hold, the after-holiday crash or, in the case of those in the school system, getting back into the school routine after a break that seemed too short. I also realized that maybe we are radiating this fatigue onto those around us.
At times, I feel myself silently comparing my tiredness to others. Then I saw how those thoughts are completely ignorant. One of my favorite quotes is “If we knew their story, then we would understand.” This quote is similar to my favorite song “Give me your eyes” by Brandon Heath. If we could only catch a glimpse of what God sees, we would know that there is a reason for all human behavior. That woman in her car cut in front of me because she had car trouble and was running late to a big meeting; that man did not respond to my “important” email because he was home with a sick child; that mother is short-tempered because her child has not slept for two days. Understanding does not excuse behavior, but it evokes empathy.
We all have reasons to feel tired, and we all have different degrees of tiredness. Each person has a unique background of experiences based on how and where we grew up, our relationships, our beliefs, our culture, the list goes on. These experiences, combined with our temperament and personality, shape what fatigues us and defines our breaking point. For me, I am exhilarated when I am in a crisis where I am blocking a student’s hits with mats, but it exhausts me when I am in a slower-paced crisis where I have to carefully think out what I am saying and doing. The reverse is true for others. Because of these innate differences, there is no scale to rate how we feel compared to others. Instead, wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge their feelings, learn about their situation and respond with compassion? Or at the very least, assume there is more to the story.
As I ran, I reflected on this topic and the miles flew by. I was no longer consumed by my fatigue. Instead, I was empathizing with others and able to take in the beautiful day. I was able to feel the endorphins from my run and enjoy the laughter and conversation with my wonderful group. Eight miles later, I was more refreshed than I had been in weeks. By briefly attempting to see through God’s eyes, I was able to give my body what it needed so I can continue on the path he has laid for me. If I exude that joyful energy to every person I interact with, then perhaps not as many people would express “tired” as the first emotion they are feeling. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
(Jenna Ebener graduated in 2015 with a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)