Stealing the Purpose

My niece Sara recently posted a video on Facebook about a visit to Publix.  We’re a family of independent women (well, other than I am hopeless with any home or craft projects and always am begging for help there) and to have someone push our grocery cart to the car when we are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves just seems wrong. She was a bit stunned to realize that when the cashier said she was happy to take her groceries to the car, she really meant it. The cashier really liked that part of her job. To say no hurt her feelings a bit. Providing that kind of customer service is important to Publix and their company culture is based on it (well, at least they said that when they moved into Statesville). I suspect it does make their employees happier.. There is joy in doing nice things for other people or in knowing your work brought a smile to someone’s face. Sata said yes and they had a good discussion about being willing to receive help.

I hate when I hear a friend has struggled in some area where it would have been simple for me to help. It’s a bit deflating…because I feel they don’t trust me as a friend. I believe that’s part of friendship…and part of family. When I say “Call me if you need me”, I mean it. On one hand I understand they don’t want to bother me, because I do the same to others. But when they do that, they are also denying me the opportunity to care for them. And we should look out for each other. I like to take care of my friends…. or anyone who needs it.

I’m not usually the person who can often force myself into a situation. “Introvert respect”, I guess you would call it. Because sometimes I don’t want people around (such as when I am sick or in the hospital), that is my default in most relationships. I forget others are different. That sometimes people need someone just to be there for them. That sometimes people need to know people are there to care for them. And we all deserve to be cared for. Even this introvert loves her time with other people and enjoys the sweet gift of another’s time or a a gesture of caring. (Just maybe not all day, every day.)

Usually when I have had friends or family that were facing a serious illness, they have never wanted people to do things for them. At least that is what they said. Maybe they would allow the closest of family, their spouse for instance, but that was it. And the spouse, already emotional themselves, was burning themself out.

Someone told me of one person, though, that started making lists. She was sick, but she understood the need of people to show her they loved her….and it was great. If you asked if there was anything you could do for her, she would get out her list and say “If you could get me a box of notecards and some stamps, that would be great” or “How about bringing dinner on Friday? If I feel well enough, I’d love you to stay and eat with us, but also know I may not feel up to it. Can we play that part by ear?” or “The kids really could use a fun activity. Can you plan something?” or “We’re about out of toilet paper. Could you pick us up a few rolls?” or “We’re going to be away for three days for these treatments. Could you get our mail?” She kept people bustling and they kept going back for more. It was a sweet time for all….and they bonded more because of it. She created community….and they all got through it together.

I admit I am usually bad at this sort of thing….both giving and receiving. I want to give, but for most people I am always hesitant. I make feeble attempts, but have no great thoughts of what people really need. It’s like my brain becomes paralyzed. Plus I am a bad shopper….so hate things like gift giving. I like practical tasks.

I’m not always good at receiving either. Yet sometimes I need someone to keep me on task. To sit there and make sure I stay focused on things. Or frankly, sometimes “the overwhelms” hit and I need them to do it for me.

For a certain period of time in my life, I moved five times in five years. Most of those were company moves, so they would often do the packing and moving part. But I couldn’t let them unpack for me (even the times the company had included that) because I get a bit freaked out about the moving process. I don’t know what I would have done without family and friends. More than once my mom unpacked my kitchen and put those things away for me. A kitchen that is put together goes a long way to making you feel at home. My dad would set up the washer and dryer. My college roommate Ann came for several moves and once, after repeated attempts by me to distract her and get her to go do fun things instead of unpacking, she said to me “Go get a book, and sit in that chair, be quiet, and read. I am going to unpack boxes.” And unpack she did. What a wonderful gift. And she seemed to like going through my stuff and putting it away. Or maybe she liked doing things for her friend. I suspect it may be more of the latter….though I prefer to think the former, as though I was giving her a gift in letting her unpack for me and put my home together!
We are meant for community.  Communities are at their best when they give to each other and receive. The healthiest have balance, and all give and are at times in a position to receive, During my 20s none of my friends could afford movers. Many Saturdays were spent with a crowd of us getting together to help someone move. It was even fun.My roommate and I had a paint party when we moved into a new house. I never lifted a paintbrush. If anyone knows of my painting skills, you know my friends were saving me from myself. Instead I cooked….and went from room to room talking and laughing with everyone. It was a great time and produced some fun memories.

I have made a large number of my friends while volunteering. Some of the activities were not pleasant or generally my idea of a good time. But for some reason we had fun. A job needed to be done and we did it together. Or we did it for a good cause. Because someone couldn’t do it for themself. Or because they needed a reason to smile.

I love the concept of random acts of kindness. I think my 2018 goal is to do more of them. To find a need and meet it. To find someone who has lost their smile, and help them find it. So often the smallest of things can pick someone up.

I was at work many years ago and one of the gentlemen who worked with me came by to see if I had change for a dollar. I was fighting severe migraines at the time (later I figured out they were caused by the sugarless mints I had been eating) and was feeling horrible. He didn’t know this, but was simply his normal warm self. He walked out of my office and I burst into tears. I remember it still 30 years later. Those were tears of thanksgiving….he was simply kind on a day I needed kindness (even if he thought he was just getting change for a dollar.) Those simple interactions can change the course of someone’s day. Do you remember some of those times in your own life? If not, think on things a bit…..and remember.

Let us be thankful for each other. Let us give…..and receive. Because sometimes receiving gives someone a wonderful gift. Purpose.Don’t steal it from them.

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