Let’s talk. Four questions I need help answering.

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Coffeeshop

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.

The Questions

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:

  1. Is it possible to truly relate to a struggle you (or someone you love) have not personally experienced?
  2. Are you likely to commit most of your time and resources to addressing issues you can relate to?
  3. Are you more effective at helping when you’ve personally been touched by the hardship?
  4. 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?

Let’s talk.

4 thoughts on “Let’s talk. Four questions I need help answering.

    Andrea Dinkins said:
    February 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

    My faith and spirituality calls me to provide support to situations I can not relate to based on the fact that I can always place myself in the situation even though I have never been directly affected!

      KJ responded:
      February 18, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks Andrea. Faith definitely plays a powerful part in getting needs met.

    matthewruttan said:
    February 20, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Hi KJ, thanks for sharing; great blog! I think that we can relate to struggles even if we haven’t experienced them personally. Perhaps we can’t give specific advice or anything like that; however, we can relate on a fundamental human level of hurt and hope.

    In terms of question #2, I’m not sure. I think it’s perhaps easier to commit most of my time to issues I can relate to. Maybe that’s because I think I’ll be more helpful. Hard to be sure there. But as a pastor, I try to spread myself around so to speak!

    I think that #3 is hard to answer. Quite often I may THINK I’m more effective in helping when I’v been touched by that hardship (and maybe I am), but not always. I think too often we feel we have a tonne of insight into an issue if we’ve experienced something similar, but that can sometimes undermine the other person’s experience. Sometimes NOT having gone through something helps us respect what they’re dealing with more. Perhaps it depends on the person.

    In terms of #4, absolutely! After all, God is with us when we see to love he and our neighbours—so that very fact draws us outward and upward in the types of situations we get involved with.

    Just my two cents!

      KJ responded:
      February 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Thanks so much ! I’ve received some very thoughtful responses so far and everyone gives me a bit more color. What I’ll take away from your comments especially is the point about how not going through something personally can sometimes help us respect the uniqueness of someone else’s journey more. Nobody has mentioned that and it is such an important point in this discussion. Thank you again. I really appreciate the time you took here. Love your work.

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