Blow Over –
I have a confession. I don’t like air dryers in public restrooms. They either blow too lightly and just move the water further up your arm or they’re so powerful they make the skin on your hands look like ripples on a lake. I would rather have paper towels. They’re quicker and paper towels are something you can grip, and apply as much or little pressure as you like. You can get them into the crevices and all sides of your hands. When you finish you crumple them up and throw them away,
Today, at a community baby shower in Coffee county, Tennessee, there were booths and tables all over the local mall. Parents, expectant parents and anyone else could discover a lot of information and hands on experience from family experts. Every booth or table had free giveaways. Our table had books and free book bags for families if you listened to my “speech” to help dads understand the importance of reading and being involved in the education of their children.
Each of the community and faith-based organizations were there to help. They allowed parents to know the help and support that was available in the community. The baby shower itself was like a blower in a bathroom covering a lot of things but to get the full coverage, the assistance a family might require, a follow-up would be needed. An opportunity for the organization to get more than a name and contact information. A chance for the family to see the organization in action.
Wisdom teaches us that we must be careful not just to “blow over” each other with banal gestures of friendliness but rather to connect with others in a deep way. Our relationships are not to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
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Yesterday I stepped out on to our front screened in porch to let the dog have some alone time in the yard. Immediately a frantic movement caught my eye. Inside the screen porch, trapped in a corner was a Yellow Monarch Butterfly. Big, beautiful and needing to be free. I don’t know if butterflies know when they aren’t free but I knew and was determined to do something about it. I took my hands and gently tried to close my fingers around it. Several times it fluttered away but I was finally able to catch it, gently take it outside and then cautiously open my hands and watch it fly away.
I thought about my journey with mental illness and people in my life who have struggles of their own. We might not know we are trapped or at least not see a way out. We need help, assistance that doesn’t force, grab, clutch, and drag us to where someone else thinks we ought to be. We need gentleness, someone who won’t break our wings or our spirits but show us there is life, there is freedom.
I heard a story today about a chaplain who worked in a veteran’s hospital in the 1950’s. There was an African-American soldier in the hospital who had lost a leg in the Korean War. The physical therapists had worked with him trying to get him used to wear a prosthetic leg. Both the soldier and medical personnel tried everything they could think of but nothing worked and the soldier was ready to give up and live life with one leg and crutches for the rest of his life.
The chaplain was made aware of the situation and stopped by soldier’s bed one night to see if he could be of any help. “I can still feel my leg, my real leg!” the soldier cried. “It’s a phantom pain.” replied the chaplain, “It will go away in time.” “That leg!” retorted the soldier gesturing toward the prosthetic one, “will never be ‘my’ leg.” After visiting with the young man the chaplain prayed with him and asked if he could take the prosthetic one with him. The soldier responded with a shrug.
The next day the chaplain returned with the same leg except it was painted a shade of brown to more closely match the soldier’s own skin tone. “What did you do?” asked the perplexed soldier. The chaplain, hoping he hadn’t offended the young man said he took it home with him and thought painting it might make it seem more palatable. “That’s all you did?” asked the soldier admiring the leg. “That’s it.” smiled the chaplain. The chaplain helped the young man to the side of the bed, attached the leg, helped him take his first few steps and from that day forward the soldier made remarkable progress.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The chaplain helped the soldier not by insisting he use resources given to him by the hospital but by listening and understanding what the soldier was going through and then adapting his help to the soldier’s personal, unique need.
Too often we see people who need assistance and we automatically assume there are places and resources that are available. We surmise that if someone wants help enough they’ll figure out how to get it. The truth is everyone’s story is unique and unless we listen, understand and are willing to personally get involved many will go on suffering and being blamed for doing so.
Tag Along –
One of the more interesting things to watch as the two men we hired to remodel our bathroom is how one of them tags along behind the other. Clearly one has the experience, the know-how, to redo the bathroom and overcome any obstacles they encounter. The other, younger one, has the strong back and follows orders instantly. Whatever the older needs his assistant retrieves so the work can be done as quickly as possible. I’m not sure how much the younger knows but I do know he is under no illusion that his knowledge matches or surpasses the veteran builder. Wherever the seasoned worker goes the other tags along; handing him the tools, wood, drywall, fixtures and whatever else might be needed. They seem to make a good team.
I was talking with some men last week and asked them if they’ve ever encountered a “know it all?” Every one of them raised their hands. “The problem with ‘knowing it all’, I said is you never learn anything.”
A wise man once said; “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with people who disagree with you.”
Socrates said; “True knowledge begins
in knowing that you know nothing.“
New Life in Dead Things –
This morning I was walking, reflecting, on a number of things in a friend’s yard where we are spending the weekend. As I ambled around I came across a rotted tree stump about three feet tall (pictured). I jiggled it a little then a lot and soon it came loose and broke off from the bottom. Carrying the piece of dead wood to a place to throw it away I felt a flutter by my hand and looked down in time to see a bird fly up and land on a tree limb nearby. At first I thought it strange for a bird to fly that close but then I examined the dead stump in my hand. Looking closely I spotted a hole in the trunk about a quarter size with tiny red dotted eggs. I realized I had, like a giant movie monster, yanked up the bird’s home and carried it off. I gently righted the stump and took it back to where it was removed. I hope the mama bird will return.
It was a wonderful reminder that life can be found even in places which appear desolate, dark and dead.
Two Things at Once –
I am working on a project that requires two people. There is only one person home today, me. I tried doing it by myself, holding it just right, balancing it just so, tying it off, everything I could think of and no matter what I couldn’t do it alone.
I reflected on the project after I gave up and wondered if there are times things require two people to remind us how much we need each other. I heard someone use the word; “collectivism” this week. In their minds it was a bad thing and that our communities, nation, and the world had been convinced that we can no longer do great things alone. For him, it was a weakness that should be destroyed.
I don’t agree. To need each other is not weakness but strength. It means we have the intelligence to know we cannot do all things singularly and the humility to ask for help. Perhaps, if we had more of both our world wouldn’t be in such dire need today.
No Escape –
This morning, on my way into the worship center, I was greeted by a gentleman I’ve talked to many times. He’s a nice guy and does a lot for the church and community. However, he can also be described as a “close talker” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Close%20talker).
A close talker is someone who has a small personal space. They don’t mind getting real near when they are speaking. I, on the other hand, have a social anxiety disorder, along with being claustrophobic. My personal space is huge and as this guy pushed in, I pulled away. I try to be aware that my personal space is bigger than others and do my best to compensate but I felt like we were dancing. He stepped toward me, I stepped back. We repeated this process until I was almost out of the worship center doors. I am still unsure whether he ever picked up on my uncomfortableness with him invading what is sacred to me.
There was/is no animosity towards this man. He was asking for some assistance and I was glad to help. It was, however, a good reminder that when we seek to connect with one another we must be aware of ourselves and the other so both can benefit from being together.
Two Sides –
Earlier this week I received a phone call about a father who needed help as soon as possible. There were insurmountable and dangerously difficult obstacles he was facing and the concerned caller made sure I understood the need for me to connect with the dad.
So, I called the dad and explained why I was calling and offered my immediate assistance in anyway I could help. After a long pause the father told me; “Thank you.” but he was fine, handling everything life was bringing his way and appreciated my offer but at the present time wasn’t sure he needed any. I told him again if he changed his mind to call me anytime. He said he would and we disconnected.
I was confused at the original caller’s insistence of the father needing immediate help and the dad’s assured response that he was doing just fine. I then reflected on the wisdom teaching of knowing all sides to each story and person before acting. Once again it’s a lesson hard to remember and to put into practice.