Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Squeaky Wheels

"Squeaky wheels always get the grease."  How many times have I heard that phrase?  More than I can count, and many times, it's not always said in the most favorable light.  Squeaky wheels aren't always looked upon with favor but rather with disdain.  They can be loud, disruptive, annoying, and just generally unpleasant to be around.  While I hope it's not often and it's far from pleasurable to do so, I can be one of those squeaky wheels when I need to be.

I guess that a sign of age is that you begin to utter the phrases that you once heard your parents utter to which you yourself responded, "I hope that I never say that!"  Of course, in our youth and immaturity, we oftentimes find that the very utterances of our parents were much more wise than we ever gave them credit for and far more forged under the fires of experience than we ever expected.

Over the last few years, I have found that our world begs us, if not forces us, to be our own advocates.  There are few who will advocate for us, especially when it comes to healthcare, education, and financial services.  While I have met those who will be an advocate for me, more often than not, I need to be my own advocate, I need to be a squeaky wheel of sorts.

This certainly became apparent while my mom was going through her battle against cancer and has become even more apparent as my dad has made his own journey through declining health.  I've seen it with my own children and with the children of friends who don't quite fit in.  I've experienced it myself as I have had to keep tabs on my own progress through seminary as I, the renegade, chose to make the journey along a path less traveled with little guideposts along the way.

I was so thankful to have completed my seminary coursework 6 months earlier than anticipated.  This was especially monumental as I started the program off slower than my classmates.  I had made a decision that I would not spend more than 1 week away from my family even though the program required me to be gone for 2 weeks at a time.  When I knew that all would end well with my classes, I realized that I had but one last mountain to climb: my statement of faith.

I am a communicator.  I am a planner.  I am an arranger.  People joke about the color-coded spreadsheet that tracked my journey through seminary.  As much as they joke, there is no way that I would have been able to do what I did had I not so carefully tracked what I was doing, where I had been, where I was going, and what I needed to get there.  I started working towards my statement of faith about 6 months before I knew that it would be due.  I waited with anticipation for news of who would be tracking with me along this last leg of my journey.

As soon as the news came, I emailed those who would be overseeing the process to alert them that I wanted to fast-track the process.  While others would be taking a long journey through this last leg of the process, I wanted to get it done as fast as I possibly could.  My emails were met with no response, so I simply proceeded as if they were at least read.  First mistake.

Over and over throughout the process, I did my best to communicate to those who were overseeing this last leg and my progress through it, but I got no response.  I don't like to be ignored, was I being ignored or had my emails been misplaced?  Could so many emails get misplaced?

When my frustration finally hit a certain point, I called a friend who had been instrumental in me being in the program that I was in.  I explained the situation and she encouraged me to be a squeaky wheel.  I did what she told me and within a few days, not only had the process begun to move, but it went through such a fast-track that it was completed by the end of the week.

So what did I learn through all of this?  I learned that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Don't give up.  It might seem like you are being ignored, it might seem as if no one is listening, but if what you say and what you need are as important as you think that they are, keep saying it and keep doing it until someone finally hears and acknowledges your voice.

I also learned about the importance of being a squeaky wheel.  Like I said, we need to be our own advocates, and that's exactly what I did.  There are times in life when we need to make ourselves known, to add some "squeak" to ourselves in order to be heard.  I guess it can be a good gauge for us to know whether or not we think that what we are trying to achieve is important enough.  If we feel that we are bothering people by advocating ourselves, perhaps what we are trying to achieve is not as important as we originally thought that it was.

As the years go by, I will find myself needing to be an advocate for myself and my family more and more, but I also need to be aware that there are others out there who have no advocates.  I need to listen and pay attention, hear the voices of those who are crying out and in need of advocacy.  It's easy to relegate assume that these people are only found in places of economic and social destitution, but having grown up in the suburbs, I know from experience that there are those within the suburbs as well who are desperately in need of advocates, of those who will take time to listen and stand up for them. 

Sometimes we need to stand up and be squeaky wheels for others.  Are we taking the time to listen and hear those who might need us to do just that?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. so what you're saying is if at first you don't succeed, squeak, squeak again? Your thoughts echo mine as I try (sometimes in vain) to communicate with my pastor. About the 6th time I finally get through.

  3. First - congratulations!

    Second - from one wheel who has been the squeakiest on certain issues, I'm reminded of the Kenny Rogers song - you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..