I loved this image. No song was left on the shelf. Each one was brought out and sung, no doubt with great enthusiasm. I can imagine them leaving the venue that night buzzing, completely satisfied.
I’ve been trying to think of places and ways in my life where I empty the cupboard. Places where I end my day, or even part of the day, with complete satisfaction, knowing I did not hold back, not with my relationships, not with my dreams, not with my work, or with my bravery. Places where I use the resources I have at hand, to create a moment better than expected. As I considered this idea of emptying the cupboard, and what Olympian effort I might have to make to do this, my week revealed some inspirational and humbling examples for me.
I took Benjamin tobogganing twice this week. I do realize I may be pushing the edge of the time period of respectability for this activity, but it’s just too much fun to resist. Most times when we go, we have the hill completely to ourselves. But on Monday, Kaitlyn and I took the boys over in the morning and there was another family, a mom and her kids, there too. When Jim and I returned on Wednesday with Ben, we met the same family. This time the mother had her mother and father with them. Her mom, Grammie, the kids called her, decided to join in the fun. I could see this was not her normal kind of activity, but I could also see she was fully committed to spending a memory-making day with her grandchildren. She sped down the hill with her grandson and then she and the three children invented races to compete in. They invited Ben and I to join in. We had a wonderful time together, she and I silently acknowledging there could be some muscle pain to pay.
Jim struck up a conversation with the mother and grandfather, all watching as we tried to keep control of our sledding devices. As we drove home, Jim told me the mom had told him that her mom’s sister, Grammie’s sister, had died that morning. Grammie was devastated but explained that while she was so sad, she had this day in front of her, and she needed to spend time living. She wanted to do that with her grandchildren.
Grammie emptied the cupboard on Wednesday morning.
Later the same day as Jim and I drove home having dropped Ben at his house, Jim told me he had talked to one of his clients that afternoon. This client, who lives in British Columbia, told Jim that his adult daughter called him just before Christmas. She had come across a young mother and her two children who had been living in a motel since their home had been flooded in the floods of late November. The mother was out of money and about to be out of a place to live. The daughter did not know what to do but having heard the story didn’t feel like she wanted to just walk away. The father, Jim’s client, said, ‘Bring them here.’
And so, she did. This week the father and daughter, having spent the past month, including Christmas, with the little family, are just finalizing plans to have the mother and her children move into government assisted housing. The father explained it had been expensive, and challenging, and he was so incredibly glad to have been able to help. That father emptied his cupboard last month. I suspect it will sustain him for many Christmases to come.
It turns out I do not need to make an Olympian effort every single minute to find ways to empty the cupboard. Emptying the cupboard is simply fully engaging in life. It is using what we have, to create a meaningful life. It means drawing on our resources, even when they might feel minimal, to create a moment, or hour, or day, or month we can look back on with satisfaction. Most often, it means making a decision to invest our energy in that which is before us. Gord Downie and his bandmates no doubt had some misgivings about playing every song they had ever written, but it was all they had, so they did it with delight, digging deep in their cupboard trying to think of every song they knew to share with the audience. It turns out it was exactly what the audience wanted; for The Hip to give completely of themselves, using the resources and gifts they had.
Most of the cupboard-emptying moments in life do not require exhaustive planning and preparation. I suspect the expression originates from a time when a homemaker might have had unexpected guests and had to empty the cupboard to create a meal that might feed everyone. So, while I was overwhelming myself with thoughts of how to create moments to empty the cupboards of my life, it turns out these moments do not take much planning at all. They tend to just show up at our door, requiring only that we recognize them, and act upon them.
It is not lost on me that as we empty our cupboards, the result is a filling of ourselves we could not otherwise experience. It’s not one of those feelings of fullness that is gone in a few hours. It’s a fullness that lasts forever.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What cupboard can I empty?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to empty the cupboard.