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  • Avery Garn

Trying Softer

Originally published on

I recently learned that a neighbor of mine is 96 years old and not in good health. In our two years of living in our cul-de-sac, I hadn’t met this man just a few doors down. I made a mental note to stop by. I’d take my baby and a baked good--always a winning combination.

I made a halfhearted plan to knock on his door, but when the time came, something more urgent arose, and I decided I’d visit tomorrow. Urgent things came up the next day and the next. Before I knew it, cars overflowed from this neighbor’s driveway into the street. I had waited too long.

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.

While I can hardly say that the death of a neighbor I never met impacted me personally, it challenged me to reflect on the adage it’s the thought that counts. I had thought about paying him a visit, but what did that count?

So often I never make it past the thought. The ideas, the I shoulds, the when I have times. But what if I tried softer?

What if it’s a treat instead of a meal? An hour instead of an afternoon? A note instead of a visit? Maybe it’s in these acts of kindness that the thought counts. Instead of grand gestures, maybe it’s smaller steps.

But we cannot make our thoughts count if we’re too busy. Even when we try softer, loving our neighbor takes availability.

We recently had a Saturday with zero plans. Sometimes white space on the calendar can feel like a disappointment, a missed opportunity. But what if we saw that space as an invitation?

That Saturday my family went for a walk and ran into another neighbor outside. She asked if we were around that afternoon, if her nine-year-old could come to our house for an hour while she wrapped her birthday gifts.

Sometimes trying softer is not trying at all—it’s simply having the space to say yes.

In a culture where busy-ness is celebrated and speed is expected, slowing down is an act of resistance. But how can we make our thoughts count if we don’t have time?

The pace of Jesus was one of slowness, of interruptibility. So much of His ministry was done in the margins, on walks, in seemingly unplanned moments. May we have the space in our days to do the same, for small acts of kindness can be healing not only to others, but to us.

Where is there space for an act of kindness? Where can we slow down as an act of resistance? Maybe it’s writing a note or phoning a friend, or maybe it’s just saying no now so later you may have space to say yes.


Jun 24, 2023

A great reminder to slow down, make space, and embrace what is most important. Beautifully written, Avery.


Jun 24, 2023

I have thought about this many times before as well with several of my neighbors. Thank you for the reminder and challenge Avery. I always enjoy the words on your heart that make it to this blog page, and I am grateful that you share them.



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