Hello everyone and welcome to episode 53 where today I talk about an “inconvenient truth” concerning relationships. I like this term first coined by Al Gore about his view of climate change. Regardless of your view of Al Gore’s comments, there are also inconvenient truths about relationships. Today’s episode is about one of them.
If you have ever spent any significant time around children, do you remember the times your heart ached for them when they discovered that life can be harsh? Where they experienced the sadness of relational pain?
When your child’s network of friends all get invited to a birthday party, except your kid? When a child’s favorite pet dies? When all you teenager’s friends have been asked to homecoming, but not yours?
These examples raise the question of “Who’s going to be there for me when I need them?” When children face the harsh reality that people they thought would be there for them, aren’t, we call it a “loss of innocence.”
You see this theme in literature all the time. To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic example. Scout, the young girl in the story comes face to face with the racism she sees in the adults her small town in the South.
And loss of innocence doesn’t stop with childhood. Let me share a story that illustrates this, and then a way we can best deal with this inconvenient relationship reality.
- Trip to visit our daughter in SC, when back home we had a 7” snowfall
- Son, Michael texted, have you made arrangements for the snow?
- He sent George, our 18 year-old grandson, over the next day to shovel. I hadn’t shown him how to use our snowblower
- I told George just to clear a path to the garage for our car, and I would finish the rest with our snowblower when I got home.
- George texted me when he was finished and said, “It was some of the heaviest snow I’ve ever shoveled, but I got it done.”
- We returned home a few days later and I stopped over to pay him.
- At the end of a conversation about some small talk regarding other things, George brought up his shoveling experience again and said,
“I was out there a long time shoveling, and after awhile, I wondered why none of your neighbors stopped over to ask if they could help. I mean, when our neighbor Mrs. Fibeena was alive, Grant and I would always shovel her driveway. And our neighbor Don across the street, we shoveled the driveway for him, and now for his wife since he died last year. But none of your neighbors offered to help shovel.
- At least 24 hours had passed since the snowfall ended, and all the other driveways in the neighborhood were snow-free. But not ours.
- The tone of George’s voice was genuine surprise that no neighbors offered to help out with a need another neighbor had. It was so contrary to his experience, where he lived 3 miles away that he and his brother (and sister) were used to. “We help our neighbors” is a value his parents are raising him with.
- He wasn’t complaining or whining at all. His wistful comments came across to me as a sociological observation and reflection upon human nature, with a twinge of sadness to it.
- My heart ached for George, that he saw this side of human nature about our neighbors that was so contrary to his own experience. I even briefly thought “maybe we better move.”
- I know George sees this side of humanity on a daily basis with his peers. He’s no stranger to seeing the less flattering side of the human condition.
- But his surprise with our neighbors’ lack of help showed that at 18 years of age he’s lost another measure of childhood innocence. That people you would have thought would have been there for you, other adults, were not. I also sensed he was feeling bad for me, that these were the kind of neighbors we have. My heart ached for his kind and tender heart.
- George knew what our former neighborhood was like; he saw it first hand, with people like Kevin who lived across the street.
- In our former neighborhood, Kevin and I cleared driveways of snow for 3 neighbors. They were all older than us. Kevin did more than me.
- When my mother died in March years ago, we had a late winter snowfall of 3-4 inches the day of her funeral. I didn’t have time to snow blow the driveway before the service, as we had to leave in a hurry. But when we got home later that day, Kevin or one of the other neighbors had cleared our driveway of snow. No one asked them to. They just did it. Because our snow covered driveway told people something was wrong, so they stepped in to help.
- Getting back to George’s observation, I can imagine all kinds of legitimate reasons why people didn’t help.
- If any of them would listen to this podcast, I’m sure they’d have a reasonable explanation for not helping out
Some of them might even be irritated at me for suggesting someone should have helped. After all it’s not my neighbor’s responsibility to keep my driveway clear of snow.
- The fact I helped clear their drive a few times, doesn’t mean they owe me a return favor. I certainly get that.
- I don’t want to be critical, I just want to make an observation. And that is in this one instance with George, our current neighborhood personified what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12: 2, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world.” The pattern of this world, at least in our neighborhood, is NOT to help others in a jam. Keep to yourself. Take care of #1. Don’t extend yourself. That’s the behavior and custom of this world.”
- We have nice people in our neighborhood. People are cordial and respectful of one another, and I suspect there are examples of caring and helping others that I’m not aware of.
- Nevertheless, my heart still aches a bit for George. And it may very well be my heart aches more for myself than him.
- George is a very caring person, you might remember me talking about him in an earlier episode, how even as a first or second grader, he would hold open the door to his school to let teachers and other adults enter before him.
- I notice in caring people, and myself, that every now and then. Not often, but every now and then, you wonder, “When is it going to be my turn? When are people going to care for me, the way I care for them? I wonder if that was what George was feeling when he shoveled snow off our driveway.
- I know this thought crosses my mind every now and then, and it can lead to a sense of sadness really quickly.
How are we to respond to this inconvenient relational reality I described?
Ask God for the wisdom and power to:
- Resist the temptation to assign bad motives to people who do not care for us the in the way we want to be cared for. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives we are unaware of. Cut people some slack. Extend grace.
- Take to heart Philippians 2:4, and obey the command, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.”
- As Mr. Rogers, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood tells us, “look for the helpers.” As adults, look for the helpers and try to be like them. Look for the role models we can emulate.
- Become a role model for others. The best version of yourself will have a strong component of caring for others.
- Be courageous and ask for help when you need it.
- Be okay with the feelings of sadness if they come. Don’t minimize or flee from it. Just sit in for awhile, and before you know it, they will pass. Especially as you move forward with being a caring person yourself.
If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.
When people you thought would be there for you, fail to show up, respond with grace. Ask God to help you to be there for others, even if they don’t show up for you. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
As always, I welcome your thoughts about today’s episode. Maybe you have something to add to it. We all would love to hear from you.
You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for Our Relationship Quote of the Week
“I don’t go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart, not the head.
~ Diana, Princess of Wales
Can you imagine a dumber thought than this?
- Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 quote, “We have peace for our time…”
- Churchill’s preposition quote, “That is an outrage up with which I shall not put.”
That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.