When your life takes unexpected turns, if you are paying attention, you see basic life lessons magnified.
For example, I have always preferred to be the doer. I want to be the one who helps out a friend, sends the encouraging note, organizes the party. I want to be the helper, not the helped.
Life lesson number one: you must be willing to do both in equal measure. Being the helper is not always a selfless act in the end. I've gotten a lot of pleasure when I've been useful to someone or when I've been able to lighten a load. I find that when I start feeling sorry for myself, if I can find a way to do something for someone else my mood lifts immediately. And then, I found myself needing help.
The year I went through breast cancer, I found myself in a position of needing a lot of help. Boy were people willing to be kind and helpful, and boy was it hard for me to let them!
I didn't look at it as them getting the same kind of satisfaction I did when I was a helper. I assumed it was burdensome for them; and by being a burden, I wasn't lightening their load anymore. But when I took a step back, I had to acknowledge how hard it must be for my family and friends to watch my body and energy slip away from me.
My husband didn’t want me to be alone, especially the days right after chemo. Believe me, I told him I was just fine! Don’t worry!
Yet I vividly remember a time when I woke from what seemed to be a coma and was grateful my sweet daughter-in-law was there to help me when I couldn’t even get myself to the bathroom.
And then there was one morning after I had my second treatment of chemo, I took a shower and large clumps of hair fell out. A co-worker and dear friend came, got me, and made the burden of shaving my head a little less overwhelming.
Friends from small group and my husband’s work came together and took turns cooking meals for us. Prayer shawls were made and gifted. Notes of encouragement sent in the mail. Prayers were being lifted. So much kindness!
And yet, just like a small child, my initial reaction was, “I can do it myself!” I have learned that if we want to encourage people to choose kindness, we have to be willing to let them be kind to us in return.
All of this has made me realize, it's my responsibility and my privilege to let others help me. I am not being a burden; rather, I am giving them the opportunity to feel needed. I am bringing them joy in the midst of difficulty.
I have experienced and know how helpless I feel when someone I love is going through difficulty. All I want to do is lighten their burden. I may not be able to take the pain or burden away from them, but they can bring joy to my heart by saying yes when I want to help them.
I need to do the same. Allow them the opportunity to also choose kindness.
With love and joy,