Hello everyone. I’m so glad you’ve joined us today for the start of Season Six. We begin with Episode no. 121, “Experience the Relational Energy of Fall.” I don’t know about you, but I find renewed motivation right after Labor Day in the US when school buses take to the road again.
Cooler days with earlier sunsets reinvigorates my energy level to notice all the goodness life has to offer, especially when it comes to relationships.
I don’t fully understand why this happens in the fall. But it just does. It can do the same for you, too. To show how, I share three examples of renewed relational energy in today’s program.
Asking others to care
I’ll start with a post on CaringBridge from my friend David. He is on a waitlist for a liver transplant. David writes:
Today I received a call from someone who had a liver transplant 10 years ago at age 62. It was very encouraging to talk to someone who’s been through the process. I was able to talk about my fears and ask about the process. He got
The Call 3 times! He said the first two were like trial runs. The third call was the charm. The trial runs made it easier for the real deal.
He gave me details of the waiting time, recovery time, & life after transplant. The best piece of information he had was to find something that I’m passionate about doing so that I always have a reason to get up in the morning.
There is a mentor program with meetings that usually go on in the transplant department at the hospital, but it’s all been put on hold since the pandemic. My doctors asked him to call me.
I have a little bit of renewed outlook toward getting a liver. It was very encouraging.
Feel the relational energy
I found David’s post energizing on several levels, the first is from the liver transplant survivor, who at age 72 extended himself to a complete stranger to call David and encourage him with what he experienced ten years ago going down the same path Dave is on now. How encouraging to know there are people out there like this man willing to give people hope when hope is in short supply.
It’s energizing to me to think that sharing how I navigated through some of the difficulties in my life is something God can use to give people hope. Even when I’m older, like this 72-year-old liver transplant survivor. He can do the same for you, too.
The second part of David’s post I found energizing is his little sentence, “My doctors asked him to call me.” Him being the liver recipient from 10 years ago. We’ve talked before about the important role remembering plays in relationships, and here are doctors who remembered a patient from a decade ago, and how that patient might be an encouragement to my friend David.
Then they acted and asked this guy for help in caring for one of their current patients. They didn’t ask for medical help, they asked for emotional help. What a caring thing for these doctors to do.
It energizes me to think that one way I can care for people is to ask others to connect with those I care about, to share their expertise and experience in
ways that give people hope. I don’t have to do it all myself. I can ask others for help, just like these doctors did. And just like you can, too.
Relational energy during a time of loss
A second example of the relational energy that fall brings comes from my friend Randy in Pittsburgh. You’ve heard me mention him before. He recently sent me the following text:
Letting you and Janet know that we had Juno [their dog] put to sleep today. Don’t know if you saw the post on FB. The vet at the ER today diagnosed him as likely having a cancerous tumor on his spine which explains his struggles walking and pain in general over the last 6 weeks. While we weren’t ready or considered this as an option until today, it was the best decision. Molly was able to join us virtually as I held Juno when the vet administered the drug.
One of the most caring parts of it all is that the Vet was crying after Juno was gone. She cared for us all.
Janet and I are were well-acquainted with Juno, and we certainly mourn with Randy and his family over this loss. We talked recently about the idea of a podcast episode about our relationship with our pets. More to come on that down the road.
Recognizing someone else's pain
For today, though, I was energized in thinking about the vet who administered the drug that ended Juno’s life. She cried. It energized me to know of someone who so recognized the pain of someone else, and who entered into that pain so deeply that it caused tears to flow.
The vet knew in her mind this was the best option for the family pet, but her heart told her there was going to be emotional pain in doing the right thing. Isn’t that so true of other areas of life? For you and me both.
And I loved how Randy put it, that the vet “cared for us all.” She cared for the physical needs of Juno, their dog, and she cared emotionally for Randy and his family with her tears. You don’t learn to do that in veterinary school.
There’s something quite powerful in knowing that someone else on the planet knows in their heart when our heart is breaking.
From Randy’s story, I realize I can be like the veterinarian he described. I can care for people when I imagine in my heart what they must be dealing with in theirs. And then feel what they are feeling. Knowing at the same time I’m not responsible for making their pain or problems go away.
This energizes me, and I hope it does the same for you.
A chance encounter at Office Depot
My last story of renewed relational energy happened when I stopped in at our local office supply store, Office Depot.
In checking out with my purchase the cashier commented, “I see your last name is Certalic. By any chance are you related to Jennifer Certalic?”
“Yes, I said. She’s my daughter.”
Her eyes lit up and said, “We went to high school together! Please say ‘hi’ to Jennifer from me. What is she doing now?“
I filled her in on where life has taken our daughter the past 3 decades, and how she is no longer a Certalic, having gotten married and given birth to our grandson, Nathan.
“And how are you doing these days?,” I asked after paying for my purchase.
“Oh, I’m doing Okay,” She said rather haltingly. Then placing her hand just below her throat while collecting her thoughts, she clarified her response with a downcast look and, “Well, actually, not so well.”
“Really?,” I responded.
With her eyes tearing up Stacey (not her real name) disclosed, “My husband told me he wants a separation, and I know it’s heading to divorce, and it’s tearing me apart inside.”
Each tear that fell down her face served to punctuate each pain-filled sentence. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t see the kids. And I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent on my own,” she said.
How to respond?
Whew. I felt completely helpless. I wanted to do something. Fortunately, the store wasn’t too busy, but I’m thinking what if her manager walks by and sees what’s going on. I needed an emotional bandage to give her, but I didn’t have one. It was really awkward.
This would have been a great time for me to say that great Anne Lamont prayer, the real short one, “Help!” Help me God to help her.”
But I didn’t think to do this.
Instead, my relational muscle memory kicked in, whispering, “Hey pal, this isn’t about you and your discomfort over her sadness and fear. It’s about her. Imagine how awkward SHE feels. Her pain isn’t yours to heal or fix.”
And with that I said, “Oh Stacey, I’m so sorry.”
“Please pray for me, “ she whispered.
“Certainly, I will pray for you. I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this.”
“Thank you. Please pray for me.”
I said I would. It seemed we both repeated ourselves several times.
I felt so helpless. I wanted to say more. Do more. Make the pain go away. It seemed so insensitive to just say goodbye so the next customer could check out.
I have prayed for her numerous times since, and wonder how she’s doing.
I know that when I’ve shared the pain I’m experiencing it really helps to simply know someone else knows what’s going on within me. Like Randy’s vet who put his dog down. She knew.
Maybe that’s enough, to let someone know with your words and body language that you know they are hurting and wishing you could do something to help, knowing you can’t. Except to pray for them, asking God to comfort them, and show his goodness in the midst of their problem. Maybe that’s enough.
To my way of thinking the best we can do in moments like this is to remember who WE are, and then BE who we are.
Not Do, but BE.
Remember we are all created in the image of God and on our good days, we share many of his characteristics.
So display those to people. Extend compassion, because that is what God does. Be kind, because God is kind. Think about others and what they must be going through because that is what God does.
This is the relational energy I found from this chance meeting at Office Depot. It’s not that hard to be what God created us to be when we ask for his help to be like Him for people. He does the work; it’s all about Him, not about us.
Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode
You can experience renewed relational energy this fall when you notice people caring well for each other. It’s a reminder that as an image-bearer of God, you were made to do the same thing yourself.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.
Related episodes you may want to listen to
If you’re interested in hearing another example of relational energy that comes from people caring deeply for each other, you would do well to listen to episodes 8 and 9. It’s an interview I did with a widowed man whose daughter and second wife did something unusual to care for him in a most profound way. They’re two of my all-time favorite episodes. I’ll have links to them in the show notes.
008: How a Wife and Her Daughter Brought Healing
009: Shadows Connect Us with Each Other
120: The Best Relationship Advice From This Summer
In closing, if you found this podcast helpful, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts if you haven’t already done so.
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to be relationally energized this fall. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next. Goodbye for now.
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I especially liked the last story.
Having been walking around the past few weeks, sometimes on the verge of tears, I have felt very alone in my sadness.
But the few times when a brave person has been bold enough to ask me how I am doing, and then taken the time to truly listen, has been a healing balm. And a rare gift.
There are no words I need or even want to hear. I just sometimes need a safe place to let a few tears seep out every now and then to cleanse my emotional paLette.
Thanks for the reminder that it is OK to feel awkward if it allows another human being the chance to be real.
Thanks for your feedback, Immelda. There are more people out there like you and Stacey, the subject of the last story in the episode. We need to be watching out for each other and caring for each other in the manner you describe.