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With me not for me


My back can get up when people do things for me. But I sure appreciate when people do things with me.

Whenever there’s the slightest hint of superiority, I sniff it out keener than a beagle. But when the focus is genuinely helpful I too, sense that in a heartbeat. I feel cared about. With care aids I can tell who’s there for a paycheck and who’s there because they want to be.

When we do things with others there’s inclusion, an equality, a solidarity. You’re saying I’ve still got intrinsic value even if you’re doing the lion’s share of the task. I still feel seen and heard.

We had a rec staff here who sat down and generously enjoyed her planned programs beside the residents. She listened and was genuinely interested, engaging in each person’s activity bubble. She would do periodic things specific to an individual’s interests or needs and that spoke volumes about her. Even though we didn’t connect often, I felt she had my back.

There are others who live by a different code, who like to do things on mass, who hold sway with power, control and riches. They blow me, a disabled person, off as ‘unimportant’. I experience it in the grocery line or the post office. And when I give into such folly and begin building myself up by the same standards, I give away my power and self-esteem. My self-worth, dignity, and integrity all take a dive, especially when health is compromised and I don’t have a hope in heck of catching up or keeping up.

I highly suspect that’s why our culture is obsessed with empowerment and self-esteem issues: teaching it; building it; nurturing it. At school children’s sports day everyone gets a ribbon so as not to damage fragile egos. Or adult courses being offered on how to take your power back, and gain control of your life. Self-help books are exploding off the bookshelves. When the real solution is found in equality, solidarity, being-with rather than just doing-for. Seeing and valuing the gift each one of us are.

Sadly, our staff member got snowed under and left us taking with her a most generous heart. Trinkets and to-do lists are needed to a degree but the real worth is love. Being-with, valuing, seeing worth in all people regardless of our different stations in life.

No wonder I broke down when I randomly ran into her in the community. I miss her so much I told her. I really didn’t even have my finger on why but in hindsight it was because I felt valued, safe to be myself around her, I missed her heartfelt contributions.

So rather than putting so much energy into doing-for, maybe we should consider being-with to give those we’re doing-for a place at the table.

Because sometimes touching one heart at a time is all it takes.

Thanks be to God.

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