a little and a lot

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Worst Feeling

Do you know what it is?


I hate feeling helpless. I am a control freakazoid. I like to look ahead, have a plan, be organized. (Note of discrepancy: I said, "I like to," not "I do/am.") I like to be a good friend.

There's helplessnes when something happens to you that you can not control. And then there's another kind of helplessness: when something happens to a friend/neighbor/stranger that is beyond your control. I believe this type might be worse because even when you yourself are helpless, there is some way that you are dealing with things. When it is another that is helpless, well, you are just...helpless as well.

Bad news came yesterday about a friend's continuing battle with cancer. What can be done? I sat at my desk at work all day yesterday wondering what I could do. Nothing, was all I came up with. I am not her best friend nor am I in her ring of close companions. I just know her, and consider her a friend, as many do in our church. And I felt helpless.

Many people combat this feeling by making themselves feel important. They are on the frontlines, not necessarily to help the person in need but to make themselves feel like they are doing something. They want to be the first to know something. The first to do something. (Note: I am not thinking of anyone in particular as I ponder this!) I tend to have these feelings rise up inside of me as soon as something tragic happens. The sad part is, usually my efforts to help in these instances are really only to make myself feel better. I end up getting in the way.

It makes me think of all the people who sent truckloads of stuff down to New Orleans because they wanted to do something, but the trucks didn't have anywhere to unload, and there hadn't been time to organize a system for distribution. The stuff just ended up being in the way. Like when acquaintances crowd a person in the hospital. (I really loved the Kiser's sign that they posted on the outside of the door that said whether or not they were receiving visitors right after Julie had given birth.) Or when someone dies and there are one hundred casserole dishes sitting around someone's house just rotting in excess.

I'm not saying that helping or wanting to help is bad. But sometimes good intentions just end up being an inconvenience.

So how do you help someone when you feel like you can't?

Well, I thought about this all day yesterday as I sent up prayers for Debbie and husband, Alan. And then I remembered something really special that had happened the night before. Nick and I had gone to visit our friend Jenna at Starbucks, her place of employment and our favorite place to get Caramel Apple Ciders. While we were there, Alan walked in with a family friend and Jenna took their coffee orders. Jenna, being her energetic, kooky self, treated Alan kindly, joked back and forth with him, and made him laugh loudly. Thinking about that makes me want to cry. Because here was Jenna, who did not have a clue that this man's wife was in a lengthy serious surgery for her cancer at that very moment, and she was making this man smile and laugh. She lightened Alan's heart in an anonymous way--perhaps one of the best ways that could have helped him in that moment.

That's how I can help when I feel helpless. I can treat the people around me with kindness. Because I never know when I am letting someone in front of me in traffic whose spouse is being deployed for Iraq the next morning. I never know when I'm holding the door for someone whose son was just diagnosed with autism. I never know when I'm serving coffee to a man whose wife is having surgery for her cancer.

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

(Matthew 25: 37-40)

Jesus basically said, "If you want to help me, help others." Debbie, I know that you are being taken good care of today by close family and friends. I will help you today by helping others in your honor.


angie c said...

Great thoughts, Jesse. I, too, am a control freak and it's hard to handle when something is out of your control completely. I felt that same feeling with Katrina. I'll be praying for Debbie.

Let's do coffee again.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I've been struggling with patience lately, especially on my long drive home each day. It's human nature to try to help another who needs it or even ourselves. It always seems to slip my mind to be kind and courteous to everyone whether I know their circumstances or not. Thanks for the thought provoking post Jessie !! Hope you and Nick have a good weekend.

Tesney said...

Great thoughts...so true.

Anonymous said...

hi jesse - i'm up late - praying for debbie and all who are close to her and feeling your exact feelings. you really have a gift for expressing your thoughts. i too will pledge to serve others tomorrow - in Jesus' name and in Debbie's honor. thanks for your inspiration - ashley hodge

Cristin Claire said...

Hey! I jumped to your blog off of Ashley's and I just wanted to say that this blog really touched me. Thank you for writing about this. I too know of a friend (not best friend but who I consider a friend through church, school, etc) is also fighting a battle with cancer and appears to be loosing at the moment. Thank you for your words- they inspired me!

melanie said...

Hey Jesse. You are a great writer. And your blog is very cool looking. Sounds like you and Schepp are dealing with the same thing.

You are welcome to link to me. :)


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