Dear Lord, you would have thought my world was caving in! Last week I wrote about being a bit tired, and feeling the need to step back from my writing to allow the creative well to fill full again. Admittedly, I have been pretty tired, what with one thing and another, however, within an hour of posting, my mum was on the ‘phone from England wondering if I was depressed. Other relatives who read my blog had called her to ask if Jackie was OK. Readers thought I might have given up writing forever. The genie was out of the bottle.
But how nice to think people care. That, even though I was a bit taken aback by the response – I would not have been surprised to see paramedics on my doorstep – I have people in my life who would reach out to find out if all was well. Millions don’t.
I wondered, then, how I could deflect some of this concern to those who truly need it. The aged, the sick, the children who suffer and the ones who seem to dodge under the radar of community or family, but who could do with someone reaching out to say, “Are you OK?” “Do you need a hand?” And because people are often too proud/scared/embarrassed to admit that they would love to grasp that hand outstretched, but don’t quite know how to close their fingers around the lifeline, perhaps there are ways in which we can just make an offer of some sort. It takes tact, a willingness to be turned away and therefore risk embarrassment ourselves, and indeed, sometimes a bit of bravery. But I think it’s good for everyone if we take the opportunity to connect with those less fortunate/at risk/needy when we can. It's good for all concerned. Giving is a gift in itself.
I overheard a conversation in a shop yesterday. A young man in his late teens, telling a friend how much he hated Thanksgiving. He said that his dad would always get on his case about something and his mother nagged everyone about the fact that she was stuck in the kitchen, then the relatives descended and it was havoc thereafter. I imagined him always ending up in the wobbly chair, you know, the one at the corner of the table where you have to keep one foot braced against the table leg, and the edge of the table sticks into your middle as you eat. I imagined him feeling like a little boy every Thanksgiving. Anyway, he went on with his complaint, then said, “Well, I won’t be doing it this year – I’ve volunteered to serve dinner at the homeless center, and clean up afterwards. I told my mom I’d be back after dinner.” And as I made my way down the aisle with my shopping cart, I wondered about that. I could imagine his mom being upset at his absence, but proud of him. Admittedly, his actions weren’t completely altruistic, but at least he wasn’t getting toasted at a friend’s house before turning up at home for dinner and trying to remain seated on the wobbly chair!
I’ve done that in the past – no, not been to a friend's house to drink myself silly - but I've served food at a homeless shelter at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and walked dogs at the humane society so the usual volunteers can be at home for the day. I’ve delivered food to the elderly and I’ve done a few other things. And I’ve felt guilty that I’ve not been able to keep it up throughout the year and that some years I don't get to make that sort of immediate contribution.
Perhaps the best thing is to do something for someone else every time you think it would be nice if someone did something for you, or when someone reaches out to you because they think you’re not doing so well. Remember Patty’s Veteran’s Day post a couple of weeks ago? There’s a list to get started on right there (I started knitting – a solder will be receiving a rather lurid yellow scarf at some point. That’ll scare off the Taliban!).
But here’s the essence of my post – and I know we are almost assaulted with such messages at this time of year, but I will add my voice: What would it be like if we all had it on our list of to-do’s to reach out to someone who needs a bit of help this holiday season? Wouldn’t that be the best gift to give? It's a way of demonstrating gratitude for all we have - such as the gift of people who care enough to call to see if we're OK, that sort of thing. And it's a time to remember that gratitude is allied to grace, and the world could always do with more grace.
This is where I would have uploaded a that lovely video on YouTube of people holding hands to Diana Ross singing "Reach Out And Touch Somebody's Hand ..." But I just cannot get that to work. You can find it here though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-7qCG2_aaA
And me? Well – copyedits came in early, so I’m working hard now. And as you can see – I’ve also written a word or two.
Enjoy your weekend!