Every human being wants to be loved and to feel that they belong. In order for there to be a place for a person to fit, they have to contribute in some way to the relationship, the group, or the project. When we feel needed, we feel invested. Our being invested means that we are part of the whole who is tending the whole, instead of us all being isolated and only self focused. Science is just now waking up to the fact that people need to have connections with one another. It is vital for our emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
We often talk about service. In some respects, it is easier to give to other people than it is to take, despite all of us complaining about “users” and “abusers.” Part of the lesson of Christmas that children need to learn is not only how to give gifts, but how to receive them as well. Many of us struggle with that. We don’t know how to be humble.
Sometimes we have to step aside from practical things and allow other people a chance to do something for us.
An elderly man we know does not have much money. We frequently stop in to see him, to take him to lunch or for a drink. Most often we pay because we can certainly afford it and we know that for him to pay for both of us would be difficult. Our giving comes from a genuine love of him and a need to let him know we care. Taking him out is a break from his usual routine and a bit of a treat. I feel good about myself when I am being aware of others and can tend to their needs. That is not always possible but when it is, I gain a great deal of pleasure from being able to do that.
Recently our elderly friend shared a story how he asked to take someone to lunch. It was someone that our friend loved, who had been good to him, and he wanted/needed to treat him in thanks for all he had done. I know that he would have had to save up the money to do it and would have been excited to reach the day when he could afford it and say, “Let me take you to lunch, my shout!” The man was reluctant and asked where he wanted to take him. Our friend had a restaurant he loved and he was so excited to take his friend there but the man turned up his nose and refused because he had issues with who the restaurant served. Our friend then offered to take him anywhere he wanted to go and the man reluctantly picked a restaurant. When they got there, he looked at the menu, complained about it, and got up to go home to mow the lawn leaving the elderly man there to eat lunch alone at a restaurant he had not chosen.
Our friend was very sad.
As we age we search for meaning. We look for ways to feel useful. It is amazing how you can go from a 500 miles per hour life to zero in a heart beat. And life moves on so quickly and the water flow just rushes by you and hurries on its way. You are quickly replaced and forgotten because your circumstances have place you on the banks of the river instead of swimming in the middle of the current. Some people are ill equipped to deal with the sudden loss of purpose and is probably the reason why so many people die very soon after retiring. Who are we if we are not the banker, or the teacher, or the go to person when people have a problem with their computer? We live our lives defining ourselves and our worth by what we do and not by who we are.
We need to let people take us to lunch. It is not about us having more money. It is not about us liking the food or even if we are hungry. It is a gift of value that we allow others to enjoy. Our friend needed to take the man to lunch. It would have allowed him to feel that he was an equal with the man and not a project. It would have afforded him dignity. None of us like the idea of not being able to give anything of value to others because it makes us feel that we ourselves are without value.
Find ways to let people help you. You may be amazed at what help they can be. Count on them. Appreciate them.
We can let go of the idea that giving is about being in the strength position and giving to those less fortunate and see that giving and receiving, like everything else in life, is the flow of energy. We don’t get assigned roles. We share them. There is no strength or positions that layer themselves from bottom to top – that is all part of the illusion we need to leave behind. There is only connection and a life flow and the amazing thing is that sometimes the greatest gifts we receive come from the people we think we were going to help. I have come closer to God in my fellow man through the eyes of those who are humble, than any other way.
It is indeed a wonderful feeling to know that you have helped someone else. It can be even more incredible to allow another human being to experience that, especially when their circumstances might afford them few opportunities to do so.