Thursday, September 7, 2017

No need for pity. Thanks though.

Cate's class was scheduled for a "community service day" a couple years ago and she was so excited. So when she got into the car upset the day before the service day, I was baffled.

"Mom!" She said, "We are working with our same grade tomorrow at the community school we are visiting."

"Oh?" I asked.

"Yea, Mom, and I don't think we should call that SERVICE! That might insult them. If they were say in KINDERGARTEN then it would be ok to call it service. But they are OUR AGE!!!"

Ah, well, I started and stopped. I took a deep breath. I started again. Finally, I just looked at this child who was far brighter than her age and told her she was absolutely correct. I suggested she just try to make new friends and enjoy the day. She should take the word "service" out of her mind and view the day as "networking."

That interchange with Cate has been resonating in my head lately. Part of moving around the country means we have had many opportunities to meet new people, to experience different communities -- some large scale and some smaller. And without fail, we reach a point where our people fall into a few categories:

1. Those who truly just get us. Oh, they see the obstacles our family has faced and is facing but they just saddle up next to us anyway. They aren't looking for reward -- just for some reason they see something in one or more of us worthy of friending. Isn't that a blessing? I thank God every day for those willing to walk with us in friendship.

2. Those who want to get us but are just a little bit confused: This happened often when the kids were younger -- people who thought it would be "good" for their children to hang around my children. Oh boy. Can you imagine for a minute how it feels to be told that "I like having your boys play with mine. Mine need to realize how lucky they have it." Can you feel the pain of that?

3. And finally...those who want to make us a project: They might as well label us "Community Service Project". Believe it or not, I know that it was one lady's religion -- she would not allow me to "thank" her for her assistance because that would negate the good she did in helping us. I am serious.

But usually it is much more subtle than that -- people see us and think we need help. Oh please don't get me wrong, sometimes we do. If you want to grab the door for Benjamin, we are so appreciative. If you want to move some seats so he can gain easier access to the theatre, church, movie. Please do.

But if you are being kind because it makes you feel good about yourself to help my poor pitiful family then please do us a favor and walk away.

If you have no interest in knowing us but feel compelled to "serve" us -- please hear me when I say we are good. I know your heart is more than likely in the right place but for goodness' sake, you acting out of some belief that you have life better than we do, really doesn't help us.

When the triplets were four years old, we were in line to meet Cinderella at Walt Disney World. The Fairy Godmother saw an adorable little girl in her Cinderella gown, one little boy in his walker, and another using his little power sticks. She motioned for us to come to the front of the line.  Wade and I urgently shook our heads no. We were willing to stand in line. We were fine. But the parents in line in front of us had noticed and those moms and dads parted like the Red Sea motioning us through.

I wept all the way to Cinderella. I cried tears of sheer gratitude for the families that recognized the challenge for my boys to stand for a long time. Please don't misunderstand me, I was extremely grateful.

But even then, part of me was afraid that those families just felt pity for us and I just couldn't handle that. So I cried some more.

The Cinderella families were the first but there have been other seasons where complete strangers have reached out to meet the needs of our family -- to yes, serve us. They have brought meals during surgeries, sent care packages during recovery, loved us well in hard hard times.

And so I keep wondering about the difference. What makes that ok and the other -- the ones who act like they want to befriend us as a project -- different?

I kind of think it is almost fly-by service -- those who know of us through one group or another and choose to sign up for a meal, etc. There is just good-heartedness with no real need for return. (Wow! Aren't those givers amazing??)

Alternately, the ones who seem to want to be our friends as a project have a distinct sense of condescension towards us. You can feel not only the pity but the sense that it is because they are so superior in their family's lack of special needs that they feel beholden to care for my motley crew.

And so I feel a lot like Cate worried the community-school children would feel about her class coming to theirs.....I don't NEED to be served! I need to be friended.

A family who needs friends...maybe even football fans...but not pity.

By the way, when I picked Cate up after that day she jumped in the car eagerly:

"Mom! Would you believe I walked in and immediately saw one of the girls who went to camp with me last summer?!! We got to be partners for the whole day! It was awesome!"

Isn't partner far far better than project? Isn't friend the very best thing of all?

Carol - The Blessings Counter