Thursday, October 22, 2009
30 Staples, 10 Days, and One Big Lesson in Humility
The good stuff, though...I am really looking forward to getting back to that. I have missed our quiet time together, our night time routines, our snuggle time when he wakes up in the middle of the night and needs a bottle. I've even missed being able to do the more mundane things myself. Bathing him, dressing him, changing his diapers...I am eager to get back to doing all of those "mommy" things that I haven't been able to do for over a week.
I know Jaden misses it, too. I think he's been doing very well in letting other people take care of him, but as I get better and I am able to hold him more, play with him more, and so forth, he clearly prefers that I be the one to give him the care that he needs. I can't deny, it feels good to be both needed and wanted. I am sure that he will miss the people who have been coming into our home for the last week, as he enjoys making new friends. However, I think he will also be glad to have his mom back to full-time mommy duties.
I have learned a few things in this week of humble need. I have learned a lot about the amazing kindness of strangers, particularly when that kindness is going to impact the life of a mother and her child. I have learned that some of the assumptions I made about people based on their particular set of beliefs, the church they attend, or their political affiliations. I have experienced kindness from the most unexpected of places, and I have experienced a chilling silence where I thought I may find more warmth and friendship.
I continue to learn, much as I did when the birth of my son was not met with the loving congratulations from many I once considered friends, that people are fickle. For many, it truly is, "out of sight, out of mind". Regardless of what a person's reasons may be for being "out of sight" (mine, for example, was that I found out I had cancer, needed treatments, treatment made me sick and homebound, etc...), my experience has been that if I am not constantly reminding people of my existence, I am forgotten.
It hurt me deeply when my son was born, and many of the people I still counted among my friends at the time did not visit us in the hospital, call to congratulate me, or even acknowledge that my sweet baby had been born. It was humiliating because, thinking these friends of mine would be excited about the birth of my babe, I had one friend do the calling to make the announcement. I am not sure what kind of a response he received, but I quickly learned that I was delusional about the relationships I had, and whatever friendships may have been there at one time, were now gone. This was my first experience with "out of sight, out of mind", and it was brutal.
So, when I learned I would need surgery, and that recovering from surgery would mean that I could not care for my son without help, I did not anticipate that I would receive a lot of help from my home church. My health had, once again, taken a downward turn after the birth of my son, and my church attendance had been scarce. As the date for my surgery approached, I would occasionally see someone from church at the bank, the grocery store, etc...and I would be asked how much help I needed after surgery. Initially, according to my surgeon, I would need help for six weeks. I was very candid in sharing that I did not have nearly enough help lined up to cover the full six weeks. I was assured repeatedly that people would be calling me to schedule time to help out.
I was skeptical. Maybe it showed. I did not receive any phone calls from those who said they would call. Rather, I received several from people I had never met, who attended churches and/or Bible study groups I had never been to, who were not only willing but happy to help my son and me. One of the primary sources of support came from a group of women at a church I visited once in the summer of 2008, and did not go back to because I was offended by the rough tone of the pastor.
Since that visit, I have become better friends with the woman who first invited me to the church. She and I will never see eye to eye on many things, but one fundamental thing we soundly agree on is the need to show kindness and compassion to people, putting Jesus' love in action. Through her efforts, several other women from her church also came in to help us out, and did so without asking anything of us.
Of particular delight was the woman we had with us today. I was not sure what to expect when my friend told me that this woman wanted to come spend the day with us. I did not give it a lot of thought, but when it did cross my mind, I honestly wondered what sort of conversation may take place throughout the day.
You see, this woman not only attended my friends' church. She was the pastor's wife. In the time since I had visited the church, I was able to see her and her husband at various events throughout the community, and come to realize that they were very loving people. Her husband did have a rough way about him, and my friend often shares with me that his rough way of delivering his message did have a way of giving people the wrong idea about the gentle nature of his heart. Over time, I was able to see that I indeed had the wrong idea about this man and his church.
I had planned on perhaps visiting again, someday. After my son was born and my friend was one of the people who really took the time to visit us and get to know him, I thought I may visit her church again one of these days, and give her pastor another chance. He seemed like a good man, a loving man, despite his rough way of speaking, and I thought I had perhaps judged too harshly. However, life got busy, I got lazy, and "one of these days", never came.
Tragically, the man I had so sorely misjudged was killed in a motorcycle accident this past spring. I would never get the chance to give him another chance.
So, when my friend told me that his wife wanted to spend the day with us, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Surely, she did not know my guilty secret. Still, it seemed as though something was coming full circle, and I wasn't sure what to expect.
She was to arrive around noon. About mid-morning, I left my baby in the hands of one of our very capable helpers, and lay down for a nap. I felt sure I would be awake in plenty of time to say goodbye to my morning helper, and greet the afternoon helper that I'd been feeling so anxious about. I fell asleep quickly and easily, and slept until nearly 1 o'clock. My plans to make a good first impression were thwarted.
I opened my bedroom door quietly, expecting to hear my son chattering away. Instead, I heard a lot of quiet. I rounded the corner and saw my sweet baby playing on the floor with his new friend, and she was clearly enjoying their time together. When my son noticed me, he smiled and squealed just a bit, then went back to playing with his friend. She quietly introduced herself, and I could immediately see a gentleness in her that was completely disarming.
The rest of our afternoon was spent playing with my son, and talking quietly about everything from Michelle Duggar's...20th?...pregnancy (how does her body handle it??), to our new friend's understanding of how overwhelming it must be for me as a single mom to get myself and my baby up, fed, and ready for church in time to make it every Sunday. No guilt. No shame. Only compassionate understanding.
It was a very pleasant afternoon, and all of my fears were for naught. I did not share with her what my reasons were for not returning to her church after my initial visit, but I did share with her that my son and I would like to visit after I start feeling stronger. The outpouring of love and compassion we have experienced, from a church I had all but completely written off about a year and a half ago, has been without equal.
Love comes from unexpected places. Healing comes gradually, rarely in one fell swoop. In order to experience these miracles to their fullest, a certain level of humility may be required. Humility, and, perhaps, a surgery that leaves you unable to even care for your own offspring without the generous help of loving strangers.
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