October 22, 2009

A Reluctant Heart

Have you ever had the realization that you're not as helpful a person as you thought you were? I'm in the middle of a wake-up call right now, taking a deeper look at my under-the-surface reluctance to be helpful to someone truly in need. I'm so ashamed, I have to confess. But this experience has made me look at other times when I have avoided helping someone because I thought someone else surely would, or because I was wary of getting too involved and, possibly, taken advantage of. Horrible thoughts, I know, but I'm wondering if I'm not the only one who feels this way at times. Sure, it's easy to help when I am not inconvenienced or pulled out of my comfort zone. But what about those other, more intimate situations when a person is seeking help? Well, let me confess here my avoidance to a dear woman's needs, then the blessing I received after "getting involved." Maybe it will help you look at someone in need (really look them in the eyes) with compassion rather than avoidance. Here goes . . .
I received an e-mail from a parent at my daughter's elementary school---a desperate mother who needed her daughter driven to school . . . and picked up, for an extended/indefinite period of time. She was given my e-mail by a person who knew we lived in the same area and thought it would be convenient to take her. I was reluctant to agree to the daily carpool, because it meant the girl arriving at 7:oo in the morning, hanging out with our family, and being subjected to our harried morning madness until we leave at 7:25. It also obligated me to help out in the afternoon, picking up her daughter and then meeting the mom and other children at a bus stop and driving all home every afternoon. I felt smothered already, even before accepting to help, so I simply ignored the e-mail, assuming she had other people to contact for help. But she persisted, until I finally agreed, during a desperate phone call one evening. During that phone call I learned the story behind her need:

She is a divorced mother of three children, all going to different schools. The mother is in school full time, working on a master's degree, trying to get a better job to raise her three children . . . alone. Her car had recently caught on fire, just as the new school year started. Now her extra money has to be saved in order to buy another car, which will take some time. I found out that she and her children walk about 2.5 miles before their school starts each morning (and again in the afternoon) to either catch the city bus (she and her son) or walk to a gas station where her younger daughter was getting picked up for school by someone else, who eventually stopped her services with no explanation.

So, I got involved. When I met her, all it took was one look in this woman's eyes, one look into her children's eyes, to see that NOT helping her was not an option. Her eyes were like my eyes; her children's eyes like my own children's eyes. Would I want to be ignored, passed off, or seen as a burden? Would I want my children to not be able to get to school? Would I want ANY major need unmet for me or my family? Of course not. Needless to say, I made an immediate friend in this woman. She's awesome, and so inspiring: in her strength, in her attitude, and in the grace with which she handles every unpleasant circumstance. She flows. She trusts. She is focused on a better tomorrow, a better future. She does not allow thoughts of scarcity (not having enough or not having needs met) to paralyze her. What a blessing for me to know her. I'm now fine with my role as driver for as long as she needs my help. We've bonded. I'm "involved." I got out of my "comfort zone" and headed straight into the unknown zone, where so much learning and growth and blessing awaits. And all it took was looking someone in the eyes and really seeing their situation as if it were my own.
The heart rock pictured above is particularly unique. It has two parts to it: the bottom is a piece of crystallized honeycomb coral; the top part (the heart rock) sits fused on the piece of fossilized coral. Two seemingly unrelated natural pieces have come together. This union is so special to me. It's almost as if the coral is "carrying" the heart rock. This is another natural-element example of how we are all called to carry one another in life. Doing so not only leads to a need being met--it also creates beauty. And in carrying another we also increase our opportunities of being carried when we are in need. The beauty of carrying and being carried by another changes us and reminds us that we are all united; we are all one.

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