Tuesday, 19 June 2012
The Art of Giving, (and accepting when people don't want your gift.)
I live in a small rural community. In my community neighbours help neighbours, that's what I love about living here. This became solidified to me when Gabe died. My neighbours all took up a collection for us. Local stores had donation jars to help us with Christopher's traveling expenses when Gabe was in intensive care, and I was in the hospital in Kingston. When Gabe died, meals arrived at my door every day for a month. I had experienced the worst nightmare a parent can live through, and yet I felt the warmth of my community. That has stayed with me.
I feel that it is so important for me pay the kindness I was given forward. There is a couple in our community who are going through a very difficult time right now. They are both people who give of themselves to our community. I don't really know the wife very well, and for that matter I know the husband to speak to, and he's a lovely man, but I don't "know" them. They just found out the wife has terminal cancer, and has very little time left. From what I understand it came as a complete shock. I cannot even imagine how that must feel. When I found out, I felt like I needed to do something.
I decided to organize meals for them. I know a lot of people, and I could arrange for this couple to have meals delivered to them everyday. Meals aren't a lot, but it would be one less thing for them to worry about, and those meals would do more than just physically sustain them, they would know that people care about them. I lay awake two nights making plans and dreading calling the man to ask if I could do that for them. I made lists in my head of people I would ask. I was in my "save the world" mode.
I made the call yesterday. My mouth went dry when he answered. " Hi," I said, " I understand that you are going through a tough time right now, and I wanted to know if I could have meals made and dropped off for you?" He was lovely, and polite, but didn't want them. He didn't think that they would be able to eat them. I wanted to force him, to just make the meals and drop them off whether he wanted them or not, because it would make "me" feel better. I had to respect his wishes, and that stunk. I had to remember that giving is not about "making me feel better", and that really stunk. He thanked me for my kindness and told me how much it meant to him that I would even think about them.
I got off the phone, and just sat there. I felt so terrible for this lovely, nice couple having to go through this horrid ordeal. I knew that meals would not get rid of the cancer. I knew that meals would not lift their spirits so high that they would forget the cancer. I just kept thinking about "what if it were me". What if one day one of Christopher's stomachaches turned out to be more than "just a stomachache?" I can not imagine what a nightmarish shock that must feel like. I am a take charge doer. I charge in and try to make things better, whether people want me to or not. I think that I can change the world, and it stinks when I can't.
In the end I did exactly what I had set out to do. I let this couple know that they were in my thoughts. I did not orchestrate meals as I had planned, but they got the soul sustenance. I also went against my instincts, and respected their wishes (even though it nearly killed me). Now my brain is spinning a thousand miles a minute thinking what else I could do to help. I have to remind myself that it's ok to do nothing. It's ok to let people know that you have them in your thoughts, and then do just that.