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September 18, 2020

Dear Harpeth Hills,

Margin (mahr-jin)
an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary: to allow a margin for error.

I found myself getting irritated with a friend this week. We spoke on the phone for a few minutes, about nothing much in particular, and after hanging up, I felt frustrated. You perhaps would use the word angry, but as a man of the cloth who holds himself to a certain higher standard, I prefer the word frustrated.

Besides the obvious truth that I am a fallen person in need of grace, I have one other theory that explains my frustration. It has to do with margin, the amount of emotional or spiritual space that surrounds us. You and I can absorb only so much difficulty before it “really” starts to get to us. A bad day at the office means the three hours before the kids’ bedtime might be a little dicey. Your Mom is in the hospital, and you unexpectantly want to ram the bozo in front of you who is weaving on the Interstate. Your newborn doesn’t sleep more than 90 minutes at a time, and you start crying on the phone when your sister calls. And you are the sibling that never cries.

My theory is with all that is going on in the world, everyone’s margin for error has shrunk. The constant barrage of bad or troubling news wears us down. We are less patient, more angry, anxious, and ready to take offense. We don’t even realize our margin has shrunk until we go ballistic at some minor infraction that we would have ignored back in the good old days of 2019.

“These days people are so crazy,” we think. And sadly, there is truth to that. Billy Currington is on to something when he sings that funny refrain, “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.” (As a non-drinker I can only confirm that the first and the last are true.)

But let’s be honest here. It is not just the other guy. Aren’t we all a little crazy these days?

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience. . .

I love you.

—Chris Smith