Many years ago my husband asked a group of new students what they would like written on their tombstones. "She did errands!" blurted out one of the women. And we all snickered.
I think that she was only half-joking. And for many years I have had nothing but compassion/contempt for that woman. A life captured by "doing errands." A life consumed by trips to Target. (Well maybe that doesn't sound so bad.) I drew stark boundary lines -- my life was meaningful and hers was... not.
Being older (those many years again) and wiser, I have rethought this woman and my reaction to her. A life of errands can be a very meaningful life; it depends on the end game.
We are so used to making fun of the June Cleaver-style housewives of the fifties who could see their faces in their dishes (it never works quite the same way with paper plates!). But I think that part of the problem, part of the emptiness was that cleaning house is not a goal in itself. However it can be the means to a very important end. As can doing errands. And all those trips to Toys ‘R Us and Smart and Final and Kohl's and...
Cleaning house can be transformed from a mundane activity into a Godly one depending on our goal and our attitude.
What if you want your house to be clean because you view it, as the Torah suggests, as a miniature Temple, a place for the holiness of God's presence to alight? What if you want it to be clean because it gives your husband a sense of pleasure and peace when he walks in the door? Or you feel better able to focus on more spiritual ideas when the material is in order? Cleaning house can be transformed from a mundane activity into a Godly one depending on our goal and our attitude.
The same is true with "doing errands." Are we just "killing time" because we don't know what else to do? Is it the pleasure of conspicuous consumption that drives us? Or are we taking care of our family's needs? Perhaps in a budget-conscious manner? Errands are also part of creating a home. And running them, particularly when they may not be your favorite activity, is a meaningful effort.
While this may turn into a rationalization if a trip to Wal-Mart for the latest bargain is our daily errand, we can expand the definition. Growing families involve trips to doctors and dentists and orthodontists and dermatologists (just to name a few!). They also involve stay-at-home "errands" like filling out camp applications and college and seminary applications. They involve purchasing plane tickets and making other travel arrangements. Not always fun, not meaningful per se, but invested with meaning as acts of love and caring for our families.
I could go on and on. As our children get older, there are many family simchas, bar mitzvahs, weddings. They all involve planning, details, and yes, errands. Is a life involved in those activities meaningless? I think not.