Friday, November 6, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

My friend Arzu wrote a really interesting post today. My post is in response to her musings... you should go over and read it, otherwise this post will seem pretty random.

I'm not Christian... I used to be but there were too many loose ends that didn't make sense to me. I don't really know what I am at the moment; I believe God exists in one form or another but I really don't think It cares about us on a personal level.

This being said, I don't think that lessens our calling to care for one another. In the end, God is intangible; we are all we have. I think our highest purposes are found in helping others, in doing what we can to ameliorate someone else's pain.

I also know that I fall short of that standard. A friend, a neighbor recently suffered a death in the family. I found out immediately but could not bring myself to cross the street to console her or to offer my apologies. I was awkward and helpless when it came to facing death in my own family when my father died a couple of years back; I was awkward and helpless when it came to dealing with her loss. Even though I loved her and knew that my silence was hurting her, I could not go over.

I'd like to think that I'd be there if a friend needed me, but in reality, I'd probably be "too busy", or help out but feel put-upon and inconvenienced at the same time. How to reach the selfless spirit that Arzu's friend S demonstrated when the neighbor he barely knew requested his help?

I also know that if the shoe were on the other foot, I would suffer alone and in silence rather than ask anyone for help, thereby inconveniencing them.

I love the idea, the ideal, of community... where we all take care of each other. It seems like such an impossible goal, though. How do we get there from here?


lookinout said...

I think that the ability to offer sympathy takes practice. So does asking for help. I've improved on the first but not so much the second, and yet I'd more easily offer help because that's concrete and has less emotion (for me).
If you take yourself over there, despite your discomfort, you'll be glad in the long run. IMHO, you don't have to be fancy or know what to say. You just express sympathy and support.

Velda said...

I'm smack dab in the middle of this exact situation. I have found it incredibly difficult to ask for help. I have only asked for help from those who have come right out and said "ask me for help" -- it's been a process. The other night as I needed to go to ER, my first thought was "Who am I going to call who isn't going to be pissed off and who isn't going to say no" -- I called my sister, I was uncomfortable calling my sisters in law as they had taken me so many places during the day. It really does take practice as Gillian says. Another way you can offer support is to drop a card in the mail and tell them that if they need to talk they can call you, you'll be surprised how easy it will work out. (((hugs)))

Susan said...

Gillian... Almost two weeks after the death, I saw my neighbor outside and went over. (Why is ringing the doorbell so hard?!) I said the things that needed saying, but those silent two weeks were pretty big in both out minds, I think.

V... I wasn't thinking of you when I wrote the post, but you're right... you're living it. You're going to have to become quite comfortable with asking for help. That would be almost as hard as the disease itself, I think.

kate said...

I have found during the course of DD1's fight against Hodgkin's that most people actually don't mind doing something specific if you ask them directly rather than them having to try to figure out what you need and what to say. And, if you are able, to relate the request to soemthing they are already comfortable doing, i.e. make a meal if you know they are big on cooking anyway. You can quickly weed out the well-wishers and the really true supporters when you speak plainly about your needs.

Those who say 'give me a date and time' are the real gems, and those who say just give me a call about anything are secretly hoping you won't. So be plain and be bold! It will save you hours of agonizing.

Conversely, if you are unable to offer assistance, for the love of Santa Claus, don't say stuff like "if I can do anything, just call" - we know you think you are obligated to offer help, so please just don't make the offer. It is easier on everyone if you just express your good wishes for the best possible outcome to the problem in whatever form that is, and leave it a that.
Velda - we've never met and yet I find myself thinking of you often. Go boldly and make your mark and speak plainly each day now - you have all the reasons you will ever need to ask for what you and your family need, and now is the time.
I wish you great courage in the days to come.