Relating and helping
Last week, I was sitting in Starbucks reading when the tables closest to me started filling up with young children. There were a total of three women with six children between them. One of the women was holding a baby. Another tried to get her oldest child (who was maybe four years old) to stand in line while they got the other kids settled. Brief fits of crying and whining started but never lasted for too long. People around us (most were working on laptops) begin to get noticeably restless and some started leaving. Every single child in the group was ridiculously cute and simultaneously obnoxious.
For a moment I considered leaving too. I’d read enough already. Then all the sudden I felt a feeling of freedom take over me. I realized that I could get up right then and go to bathroom. Nobody would follow me. No little voices would call my name or demand their needs be met first. I didn’t have to watch nor entertain anyone. I could leave the store all together without putting anyone in a car seat. I could leave without looking for things that may have been thrown on the floor. I could leave without asking for hot water to sanitize a pacifier or heat a bottle.
I couldn’t shake how I was both feeling sensitive to them and feeling grateful that my children are older, now 10 and 12. If my sons were with me they wouldn’t be interrupting anything. I could still read. They would probably be occupied with staring at my oldest son’s cell phone. I was acutely aware of the difference between their experiences with young children and mine with older children.
Then one of the moms says to me. “You can’t read through this can you?” And before I answer another Mom says “I miss reading”. And I totally get what she means because I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be in their places. I know what it feels like to “miss reading”. So their struggles are real to me. I can see myself in them. And it makes me want to be kind. But most importantly, I noticed how strongly I desired to help them. How much I wanted to go get napkins for them or how much I wanted to help entertain the kids.
This week I’d love to discuss with you the following questions. We can do this through WordPress, Facebook, email or in person. But I’d like your perspective on one or all of the following questions:
- Is it possible to truly relate to a struggle you (or someone you love) have not personally experienced?
- Are you likely to commit most of your time and resources to addressing issues you can relate to?
- Are you more effective at helping when you’ve personally been touched by the hardship?
- Does your faith or spirituality call you to serve beyond what you can relate to?
I don’t know if there are any right answers here, but it’s worth discussing.
What do you think?
“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”
Whether you look forward to Valentine’s Day or despise it, I’m sure we can all agree that the world would benefit from more attention on love (and not just the romantic kind). Below is the list of 100 simple, loving, compassionate and gratitude-inspiring actions you can start checking off immediately.
Share the love!
100 Ways to Love on the World
- Send encouragement to someone caring for an aging parent.
- Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
- Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
- Enrich a livelihood. Donate to fund a microloan to help people in other parts of the world increase their earning potential.
- Marvel in the power of human expression. Buy tickets to music, dance and other live performances.
- Make an effort to use both sides of your paper.
- Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
- Plant something and watch it grow.
- Buy art that moves you and says things words can’t.
- Donate batteries to keep lifesaving appliances and smoke detectors working.
- Shop kindly. Choose to shop from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
- Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
- Join a bone marrow registry.
- Raise your awareness of the employee working conditions at the companies you support.
- Help them live the dream and share their art. Dine at chef-owned restaurants.
- Tip generously.
- Advocate for a minimum living wage in your community.
- Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
- Learn the warning signs of suicide and take them seriously.
- Buy local produce.
- Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
- Adopt your next furry family member at a rescue or shelter.
- Plant a passion for service in a child’s heart.
- Keep the craft growing. Support new and independent artists.
- Choose books that broaden your view of the world.
- Shovel your neighbor’s walkway.
- Donate your old computer to a school.
- Offer your home repair skills to the elderly, ill or a military family.
- Learn CPR.
- Register to be an organ donor.
- Be a designated driver.
- Choose to shop at small businesses more often.
- Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
- Make a small change to conserve energy such as not pre-heating your oven or opening it while food cooks.
- Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
- Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
- Share a meal with someone you love.
- Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
- Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
- Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
- Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
- Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
- Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
- Register to vote or correct your voting information.
- Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
- Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
- Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
- Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a world problem that seems hopeless.
- Give someone the freedom to live an unconventional life and still be accepted.
- Donate school supplies.
- Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
- Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
- Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
- Create a disaster plan for your family.
- Give someone a gift you made yourself.
- Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
- Drive cautiously and without distractions.
- Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
- Loan someone a book you love.
- Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
- Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
- Make a small change to conserve water such as not prewashing your dishes before using the dishwasher.
- Donate suitcases to foster children.
- Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
- Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
- Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
- Give someone more credit than they deserve.
- Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
- Fight indifference and don’t look away. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
- Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a global or domestic cause you believe in.
- Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
- Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
- Make a small online donation to a global, domestic or community nonprofit with a mission you believe in.
- Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
- Listen carefully. People yearn to be heard and understood.
- Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
- Tell someone a joke.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Pray for someone.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Get or stay committed to a recycling program
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
- Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
- Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
- Hug someone.
- Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
- Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
- Leave change in a candy machine.
- Pay the toll for the person behind you.
- Thank a solider for their service.
- Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
- Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
- Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
- Keep your brain sharp and body strong. Serve on!
- Share this post and spread the love around.
- If you love them, tell them.
What am I missing?
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
After last week’s post (The privilege to live without open wounds), I had the following exchange with a reader who gave me permission to share it below. I think it speaks to the journey we are going on together and the discussion I hope you will join into.
“Living with open wounds”…as with most things, often a lot of grey area in that. Totally get that in the article you do not mean to address a certain level of trauma. “I’m not talking about people that had tough romantic breakups or are dealing with the unfortunate but predictable sadness that life can bring.” For many people things can be clearly categorized. Upon first glance I would fall into the privileged category…I am hardly the first to be divorced after a long marriage, have parents deceased, had someone die in his arms, etc. And I do consider myself privileged. But my oldest daughter is MR (the term Du Jour is Intellectual Disability). Make no mistake, I do feel blessed to have her! But I see the things she will never have in her life, the things that for some reason were determined for her before she had a chance to have a say about anything in her life. Because my love for my child is endless, it forever shock my faith in God … why did he allow this with my sweet little innocent? Please, I am not looking for spiritual or religious advice…been there, done that, still doing that, it is a constant in my spiritual life. But I do consider it “Living with an open wound” because if you love someone impacted in such a way, it is a constant tear at the heart. Again, I feel privileged in other aspects in my life, and I feel blessed to have her as my daughter. I just bring this up to point out that this discussion can have multiple layers within multiple layers. Wounds can leave “gaping wounds in the heart and psyche” and “derail your potential” in subtle ways. They can drag you down or serve as motivators. And they can do both at the same time! Definitely a thought provoking topic.
Thanks for this thoughtful comment. I had to give the post a title, but I realize that people have wounds of all kinds. In this case, I was speaking specifically of the wounds that come from dramatic trauma that usually includes violence of some kind. But really my point is that we all have painful disadvantages in life. Suffering is not trivial no matter what caused it. You make that point eloquently and I certainly can see where you struggle with things that many (to include me) do not. But there’s something powerful about considering the pain that you/we DON’T have. Often we are so consumed with the pain we DO have that we don’t give the emotional energy needed to let others pain in. We may feel we don’t owe the world anything because we’re still suffering too. I think it is worth trying to feel more despite the pain that is uniquely ours. Because until we can care about what goes on with our brothers, we won’t really care enough to help them. So that’s my point with these posts. But know that I am sending you extra love and am grateful for your ability to engage in these kinds of conversations.
What does “privilege” mean to you? Are you privileged?
“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”
Has life been kind to you? Are you privileged? If so, in what ways and by how much? Do your disadvantages in life outweigh your advantages? Are they about even? Are you more advantaged than disadvantaged?
How you answer these questions has a direct link with your level of gratitude, happiness and purpose. So these are not small questions. These are big questions. They are arguably the most important questions you will ever answer. Which is why I want us to take our time and explore them together.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll discuss the topic of privilege. Especially the question of “how much privilege do you have?” At times you may realize that you have a disadvantage that many others don’t have. But you probably knew that already. We tend to be pretty good at seeing where life has been unfair to us. Yet at other times, I hope you’ll see your advantages in a new light. I hope you will pause to see that despite your hardships there are many circumstances where you are privileged. And I hope you will start wondering why you’ve been so blessed.
First a disclaimer, often when the topic of “privilege” is discussed it is applied to the privileges granted to certain groups by racial or socioeconomic factors. We will not be using the word in this way. Instead, we will be going a layer (or two) below that to draw out what your privileges actually mean in terms of your daily experiences and your life options. Today we will explore the privilege to live without open wounds.
Living without open wounds
I decided to start with this privilege because there are very large groups on both sides of this coin. There are many people living with the open wounds of trauma. People that literally can’t fall asleep or start their day without replaying memories of how the bomb destroyed their house and killed their family. Perhaps, they can’t forget the day they were raped or forced to commit murder. Maybe they aren’t able to make it out of bed today because of PTSD or deep bouts of depression. In this case, I’m not talking about people that had tough romantic breakups or are dealing with the unfortunate but predictable sadness that life can bring. I’m talking about major trauma and suffering that leaves gaping wounds in the heart and psyche. Wounds that stunt your growth as a person, derail your potential and make simply functioning and appearing normal the goal of every day.
Is this you?
If so, know that I’m praying for you. Know that I believe in a God of healing and recovery.
Is this NOT you?
It’s not me. And that’s a privilege. It’s a privilege that makes no sense to me. Why some of us get to think about Starbucks and our favorite TV shows and others get to battle mental demons all day long. It’s unfair. It’s a gross, wild, crazy, tragic privilege. And we shouldn’t forget it. Take some time to think on that as you go through your week. How would your day today be different if you didn’t have this privilege? What would it mean to your job if you were living with open wounds? What would it mean for your family? What would it mean for your ability to leisurely read this post? I hope you’ll think on it and share it for others to consider as well. See you next week.
What does “privilege” mean to you?