This is one of my lovely Coach bags – bought way back in 2008. I have a thing for green, a thing for bags, and a thing for Coach. I still had this bag in 2010 when I was in my desert times – sometimes an awkward moment: no money for groceries, but I've got this great bag ...
After about twelve weeks of no income – no paycheck, enduring the waiting game with unemployment, squeezing through savings as leanly as possible – we had to start considering other options and looking for other resources.
One of the many things I learned about myself (over and over again) throughout this desert journey was that I was really bad at asking for help. I’d been raised to be self-sufficient and self-reliant and other circumstances in my life had taught me to toughen up and shoulder through hard times no matter what. In my mind, extending a hand for help was the equivalent of giving up and admitting I was too incompetent to get it done myself.
Oddly enough, I loved being able to help other people in my life. I wanted to be the one that friends or family would call on. I never thought less of them when that happened – it was a delight to be able to be of assistance. So why did I think it was different for me?
Being in dire circumstances is never comfortable. It’s never easy to be in a place where you have to extend your hand for help and count on someone with kindness to be there on the other end. Add to that some of the stereotypes and social caricatures that are drawn of people in need, and it’s no wonder people struggle with this.
And then there’s the horrible struggle with pride. That’s a hard thing to write down – even now – but I know part of my struggle with asking for help and the places we wound up asking for help at was purely a matter of me feeling too proud to be there.
The very first time I walked into the local food bank, I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. I felt like every car passing on the road was staring at me walk into the building; condemning with their glance, and once inside; felt the cold glance of regulars who looked at my clothes, purse, and accessories – still somewhat fresh from the time of “plenty” with resentment – wondering what I could possibly be doing in their space.
Harder still, was the day I stood up in the sanctuary of my own church to champion our own food drive and food closet and told the story of how the local food bank had been helping our family. From some of the looks I got, I might have well confessed to inappropriate behavior in the baptismal behind the choir.
There were several lessons for me to learn through some of these circumstances – none of them particularly easy.
What other people think about me is none of my business
This one is straight from my mom – and she still likes to remind me of this. My worth isn’t found in the clothes that I wear, or the purses I carry, or the stores that I shop at. And it’s not found in the eyes or the esteem of folks around me. My worth is found simply in the eyes of God, who loved me before the foundation of the world and who found me worthy enough to send His son to die for. Our lives should be lived and unfolded before His eyes and for His estimation alone.
|photo by hotblack|
Willingness to share the truth of your story may open a door for someone else to do some good
In addition to the looks that made me shiver that Sunday morning as I spoke about the food bank were looks of compassion, dawning understanding, and renewed resolve. Several people spoke to me about how they had no idea that our family was struggling and several of those conversations wound their way through “but you don’t look like you’re in need” (perhaps a lesson in and of itself about stereotypes and what need looks like). These people had their eyes opened about some of the difficulties around them – not just in my life – but in the life of our community, and were resolved to make a difference.
Reduced circumstances gives you understanding so you can be a better helper when you can
Having had to struggle to make ends make; having had to rely on food closets and food banks for some of our; having had to make hard choices about food vs. other necessities helps me to be more compassionate and understanding now that I’m out of the desert and doing better. We’re not living with unrestrained wealth by any means, but we certainly have more means than we did. When we buy food for food closets and food banks, I’m a little choosier about what I take. I used to just try and get the most possible food for my dollar, but to be honest, that doesn’t always get you the most nutritious or the tastiest food. I think back to my own days among the shelves in the church pantry; wondering what would taste better – roasted, pickled peppers or chicken flavored ramen. I still try to get the most possible, but I try to think more along the lines of what I’d actually like to eat instead of just trying to fill the shelves.
Asking for help and going somewhere to receive it does not make you a loser – it makes you brave. It makes you willing. It makes you humble. And in your humility, you have the chance to learn the lesson of the less fortunate and take those lessons out with you when you have regained your footing to make a difference again for those in need.
In an extended reminder to love our neighbor as ourselves, I appreciate these words from St. Teresa of Avila who calls us to His hands and feet here on this earth.
Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!