“You can’t make everybody happy.”
She said it in such a matter-of-fact tone. I thought those words were just the scraps from her years of practiced indifference.
“And one day, you’ll get tired of trying.”
I didn’t believe her. It didn’t seem that a day would ever come when I wouldn’t want everyone in my life to be blissfully happy. When I wouldn’t want to do everything in my power to make it so.
But that wasn’t what she said, was it? She never said I wouldn’t want it. She said I’d get tired of trying to make it happen.
I wish she had been wrong.
There are only so many speeches, letters, gifts, and heartbeats you can offer a person before you realize you can’t and won’t and might never make them happy.
I want so badly to wrap my arms around every single person I’ve ever known and every stranger I meet. I want to buy them cups of coffee and read them bedtime stories and whisper words like, “every little thing is going to be alright”.
And I could do that. But it doesn’t mean I could make them happy.
You can offer them everything you are, you can look into their muddy brown eyes and tell them they are enough. You can do the hard things, the brave things. You can break your own bones for the strength of another’s aching limbs.
But you can’t make everybody happy. And that’s perfectly alright.
What she didn’t tell me was that it’s okay to be completely exhausted from love.
No one ever told me it was okay to take a drive to the mountains for a date with the trees and the sky. No one ever told me to let the wind sing me a lullaby as I watch the leaves change. Oh, I wish she had told me that It’s okay to admit you’re broken and to take a sick day every once in a while.
Sometimes, I think I was born wearing a red, polyester cape. Because I’ve spent my life trying to live up to the task of saving people.
It took me seeing a photograph taken in the city on a summer night before I finally knew why I’ve been feeling so weighed down. I knew immediately that I was going to have to untie this layer of superhero attire and realize this:
I can’t save you. I can’t make you happy.
I used to see bright eyes that resembled the watercolor paintings from my childhood, but now I see that they’ve faded through the months.
Because you were born wearing a polyester cape and like me, you’ve been trying to save the world.
But the world already has a savior and He’s not on leave. He didn’t ask us to take over while he vacations on the beach. Like a child following their Daddy to work, trying to carry his hammer, his nails, his bag. We want to save the world.
But we can’t.
We can only tell people Daddy’s on the way. And that he loves them. And that he says they’re beautiful, wonderful, funny, handsome, mighty, fierce.
But we can’t make them live the life that bleeds the things that God painted on their hearts long before the earth had a speck of light. But we can tell them that He is on the way. We can tell them that they are enough. That they are worthy to be loved.
And we can love them.
But we will get tired. These feeble bodies that will someday expire, can’t always hold the weights that our hearts and souls carry. Sometimes our bones grow weary from lugging around the kind of love that changes the world.
But you’ve got to keep going. You have to keep telling them all the words they never got to hear. All the words that never came to the little boy or the little girl who wondered if they were enough.
But you can’t do that without some days by the sea or moments under the stars. You can’t do that without untying the ropes of unyielding and immovable devotion for just a little while. You can’t keep going if you don’t stop and let yourself breathe for just a minute. And in your breathing, you must keep reminding yourself:
You can’t save the world.
Not for lack of trying, or because you don’t want it with every single cell inside of you. But because you too need saving.
And the only one who can save us is the one who made us. We are not Him.
We could never bear the weight that it takes to have that kind of love; the kind of love that saves. The kind of love that causes flesh and bone to cling to a tree. We could not hold in these mortal bodies the kind of love that does not grow tired. Not yet.
So, it’s okay to take an adventure to watch the sunrise and to remove your red polyester cape. To remind yourself that you too need saving. To remind yourself that Daddy’s on the way. And to remind yourself that your only job is to tell everyone else the same.