Sometimes circumstances in your life come together, and when compounded one on top of the other, they line up to form a perfect storm.
A number of years ago one of these perfect storms blew into my family’s life. We were living in America where my husband could only work one job, for the one employer and I didn’t have the visa requirements to allow me to be earning anything. I was pregnant with our much wanted, long awaited number three child, and our health insurance costs took a hike, a sneaky preemptive move by the insurance company before Obamacare came into being. Then. Whammo. The pregnancy took a little turn and all of a sudden I needed to be under the care of a Maternal Fetal Specialist and that meant more out of pocket costs that we just hadn’t planned on and what do you know? Perfect storm.
We were stuck.
Winnie the Poo stuck.
We had very limited options and resources to face the bills coming our way. We chose to hunker down and keep our lips sealed on how big a storm we were facing, but there was a bit of pleading with God going on, a little bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and some sleepless nights.
And true to form, like every storm, this storm did not hover over our lives forever. A very kind person who guessed from her own experience what we may have been facing, put two and two together and this kind person arranged for us to receive some help in the form of some amazing food parcels which helped with our grocery bill, which in turn freed up some finances for the extra medical costs.
Talk about humbling. And hard. And miraculous.
But most of all humbling.
I learnt a lot of lessons in that season of my life. One reality that stands out to me most, and I didn’t realize how much it had impacted me, until just recently, is how hard and limiting life is when you feel like you have little or no options.
And for so many people – their lives ARE drastically limited by situations totally beyond their control. And I think that is easily forgotten when we are in the throes of serving people and helping people. Sometimes one’s options for a happier life, or a healthier life, or an easier life, are so much more limited by legitimate situations: be it finances, or ill-health, or the very real demands of dependents (children and/ or elderly), than we sometimes acknowledge.
When we were getting organised to move from Australia back to NZ, we got some people into our home to look at what we had and to give us quotes for moving options. Most people might get three or four quotes at the most. Ha. Not us. We’d never been in this position before, where we were moving a whole house load, so we called in eight different moving companies. Eight. When it came to looking at our dining area, every one of those eight moving agents counted up: one table, one bench seat and five dining chairs. ‘Where’s the sixth chair?’ all eight of them asked. Well you see, there was no sixth chair. But every agent had this preconceived idea that we should have had six chairs. No biggie. But an example of how we all come into different situations with certain ideas of how things should be. With important issues, with everyday not so important issues….whether we realize it or not, we put certain filters on situations by looking at them with the eyes we have.
So why am I giving you far too much information about a time in my life that has well and truly passed now? And why this random talk about filters and preconceived ideas that we all can’t seem to shake?
Well it’s to serve as a reminder to me….and who knows…could possibly be helpful to someone, somewhere….
Perfect storms happen in people’s lives at random times. And when they hit, often they take away people’s abilities to see the forest for the trees. When options are limited because of time/ health/ finances, then powerlessness prevails. And with that can come a multitude of self- esteem issues, trust issues and overwhelming worthlessness .
As a Christ- follower, I see that a big part of my ‘job’, my role in life is to love justice, show mercy and to walk humbly with my God. And from some of harder parts in my own life, I now know that one of the most empowering things you can do for people when they are in tough times, is sometimes to highlight for them the real options in front of them. Sometimes situations need to be ‘fixed’. Sometimes the best option is to show up at their front door with a food parcel. But always people need people to help them to see the forest. Not just the trees in front of them. And that’s what my friend did for me. Yes we got practical help. But it was more than that. She helped me to feel hopeful about a stink situation. She helped me to realize we weren’t failures. She validated all of my feelings, without ever making a big fuss. She was a forest finder for me.
And sometimes helping people, truly helping people, means applying some filters to your own thought processes, before you suffer from foot in mouth disease. I’m convinced that people don’t always know what they don’t know.
Sometimes when you’re helping people the best advice is actually no advice.
Sometimes you need to have the hard conversations and facts to be faced, but always with words seasoned with grace. Always with a heart willing to see the situation for what it truly is, and ears to really hear what a person is truly saying.
To me, that’s the best kind of helping. That’s the best kind of ‘fixing’. We all need friends to help us to see the forests, and sometimes we get to be the ones, leading the way on the wilderness trail, finding the forests for others.