Giving by receiving

The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good.
— Mary Baker Eddy

I used to hate accepting help with anything, from anybody, for any reason. To my way of thinking, that was a sign of weakness, and I didn’t want anybody to think I was weak.

The funny thing is that I don’t think other people are weak when they accept a favor from me. And I really enjoy doing favors for other people, because it’s fun, and because — as one of God’s beloved children — I am a reflection of divine Love itself, and as such, I am happiest when I am expressing love to others.

If nobody ever let me help with anything, I would be absolutely miserable. But for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might be making someone else miserable with my independent (some would say “stubborn”) streak.

I think this realization started to dawn on me a little over a year ago, when I met my friend Brad.

Brad has the most charming manners of anybody I’ve ever met. After any given church service, you’ll find him helping women into their coats, opening doors for them, or escorting them over rough or slippery spots in the parking lot. He is the consummate gentleman.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I would have bristled at such behavior. As far as I was concerned, chivalry was dead, and I was all too happy to dance on its grave, because I was of the opinion that it represented some outdated, condescending notion that women have to be handled with kid gloves. But it was immediately obvious to me that Brad’s actions were not motivated by condescension, disrespect, or anachronistic politics. Rather, he was simply expressing grace; affection; thoughtfulness; and respect for his mama, who taught him how a gentleman is supposed to behave.

It was also obvious to me that I would seem extremely rude, unkind, and unloving (not to mention very silly!) if I shrugged off these little kindnesses just to prove I could. Why would I want to go out of my way to deny this dear man a chance to make a gracious gesture — especially when such gestures are as natural to him as breathing?

I was reminded of this lesson one Sunday morning a couple of months ago on the church parking lot, where I discovered that my rear passenger’s side tire had gone flat.

Before I had time to clear the junk out of the cargo space and pull out my spare, a three-man pit crew had gathered around me, ready and willing to help.

I was tempted to dismiss my would-be rescuers with a friendly “Thanks, guys, but I can handle it” out of fear that they might mistake me for a weak, stupid girl who couldn’t take care of herself. But just at that instant, I happened to glance up and see Brad talking to someone on the other side of the parking lot, and I realized that this situation was no different than his habit of catching my arm to steady me when he saw me attempting to negotiate a curb in heels. With that gesture, he wasn’t saying that he thought I was clumsy or couldn’t take care of myself. He was just trying to make life a little easier for me at that moment. Similarly, these guys weren’t rushing to help me because they thought I was stupid or weak. They were rushing to help me because they wanted to make life a little easier for me at that moment — the same reason I would have rushed to help any of them if the situation had been reversed.

With that realization, I happily relinquished the wrench and let them loosen the lugnuts so I could swap out the tire and get back on the road.

If I had resisted their help, I might have proven I was capable of changing a tire by myself. But I also would have hurt their feelings and deprived them of an opportunity to express kindness by helping me out of an inconvenient situation, and I would have spent three times as long fooling with that tire in the process.

That really would have been stupid and weak.


3 thoughts on “Giving by receiving”

  1. Your post hit home with me this morning and now I am busy rejoicing something else – Matt, one of my old roommates from the Murphysboro house recently moved to Herrin, and he just emailed me to let me know that Chuck, one of our other roommates from that house who has been living in New Jersey for four years, just moved to Marion last week. That means, Kevin, our third roommate, who moved back from Indiana and now lives in Olney, is the farthest one away at this point, and Olney is only a couple hours’ drive. The four of us haven’t been under one roof in five years, and I’m so thankful that we can finally get together for a Sunday dinner or something at my house and catch up on old times. I am walking around giddy, thinking about being able to see everyone at the same time, and I’ve been thinking about what life was like in that house.

    I was like the mother hen, yet they were like three big brothers to me. They all knew I was capable of taking care of myself, and respected me, but at the same time, they were all big sweethearts and always looked out for me, and made sure I was taken care of, and your posting earlier this morning reminded me of them. How strange that only an hour after I would read that, I would receive that news, and hear from them when it had been months since I’d talked to a single one of them!

    When it rains, it pours!

  2. Indeed it does. I used to have a funny knack for dreaming about someone I hadn’t seen in a long time … and then running into someone I hadn’t seen in a long time the next day. It would never be the person I’d dreamed about. It got to be kind of a joke: I’d dream about some long-lost friend, and then I’d wake up and say, “I dreamed I was talking to Louise last night. I wonder who I’m going to run into today?”

    I never did figure out what was up with that.

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