Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Inconvenience Yourself Day

It really is. Or was. There's only a little over an hour left of it, but enough time to mark it for future reference. According to the website,, the day occurs on the fourth Wednesday of every February, and is all about putting yourself out a little for someone else, especially total strangers. Stopping to open a door for someone. Getting up to give someone a seat on a bus. I even asked my teenage son to inconvenience himself and bring his breakfast dishes into the kitchen. It worked, amazingly.

But being the skeptic he is, he also wondered if this inconveniencing thing has to go against the grain to count. If someone gets pleasure out of walking an old lady across the street, are they really putting themselves out? Aren't they, instead, feeding their jones for good deeds? Maybe even basking in the reflected virtue of their all-too-convenient inconveniencing? Does the oyster put up with the irritating grain of sand in order to cash in on the pearl? These are good, lawyerly questions conveniently designed to get out of detaching oneself from the couch and bussing a plate of waffle crusts into the kitchen sink.

However, there's another app to Inconvenience Yourself Day. And even unapologetically self-absorbed people can use it for their own benefit: Avoid the cozy, safe, convenient path. Take risks. Get outside. Floss. Write something daring. Deviate from a routine. Attempt the impossible, or at least the unlikely. Rock the boat.

My father-in-law, who lives downstairs, writes poetry. When I described this day at dinner, he remembered a poem he'd written. It may actually reconcile the self-serving and giving-unto-others spirit of the holiday.

It's called "Spare Parts."

We all, most all, know
To have a spare tire in the trunk,
To keep, if you dare, a spare key
Under the back door mat.
There's the goal of a spare roll
Of bath tissue at hand,
And a spare button in the bureau is best.
We know to keep a spare beer in the fridge,
A spare can of beans near, or
A banana, but
Do we remember to carry
A spare smile,
A spare "thank you,"
Or to have a spare minute
For another?

— C. R. Schwab

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