Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Givers

Today was my turn. I admit it felt unnatural. I confess it took guts. I can tell you that I didn’t want to do it. But since I can’t perform arthroscopy on my own knee, I had to let them: I had to let others serve ME.

The doctors in the “operation theater” did perfectly; Nurses Ingrid, Fiona, and Sue Ellen pampered me sweet, and my husband is cooking dinner right now as part of his waiting-on-Mona-hand-and-foot-recovery- program. I’ll never forget his stroking my forehead while I regained consciousness and the whisper that came with a kiss. It’s an honor to serve you, he said.

Raising four children means I have played nurse and caregiver for a long time; my honey remembers the twelve times I have sat through his surgeries; extended family knows I have cared for them when they needed me; nearly forty years worth of callings has kept me busy in the church. But it was Ashley, my noble beauty and firstborn, the child who never grew up -- who has depended on me all her life to eat, to move, to be her voice -- that raised the question in my mind of who is serving who.

In her tiny days, Ashley’s therapy incorporated 275 volunteers over three years time. The program required my attention every waking minute and Dale had to work four jobs to pay for it, so members of the church and friends of other faiths assisted while they also did our laundry, cleaned our bathroom and, believe it or not, brought us dinner five nights a week for two years straight.

Old and young appeared on our doorstop every single day, flush with optimism, eager for their assignment, anticipating another 2 hours with Ashley. Witnessing the joy of this self-appointed army as they watched her crawl or walk for the first time -- the result of literally thousands of hours of incessant therapy -- I began to see things the way the volunteers saw them: Ashley was not “unfortunate”; nor did they regard her as an “opportunity” or a “project”. Rather, they revered her as their “Teacher”, even “Mentor” in the ways of patience, endurance, and unconditional love.

That is when I began to wonder: what is it about society that makes “HELP” a four-letter word? Why do we treasure our “independence” so much that many of us would rather die than “become a burden”? How is it that we assume the right to serve our fellowman, but mysteriously, never seem to need help from anyone else? Visiting Teacher wants to bring us dinner (no-no, we’re fiiiiiiine). Neighbor offers to mow the lawn (noooo really, we’ve got it). Ward Member asks if they can take the children for an hour or two so we can nap (oh pleeeease don’t worry about me). And yeeeet – WHO is the first to fill up the calendar and empty the pocketbook with “good works”?

The big news, that Ashley has spent her thirty-one years broadcasting (though she has never spoken a word), is that somebody has to be served in order for the rest of us to feel good about ourselves; somebody has to humble themselves so that the rest of us can grow; someone has to come to earth in challenging circumstances so that those around her can be proved.

Maybe it’s because my elevated leg is making all the blood to rush to my brain, or maybe it’s the pain-killers, but my musing tonight is in hyper-gear and I feel like carrying this train of thought all the way to The End and to The Beginning: to Alpaha and Omega. Think on THIS: Even God expects us to serve Him! The LORD of the Universe asks for our help, allows our help, even commands our help. WHY does HE want OUR help?!

Could it be because He knows all progress, the essence of the gospel, is based in Community and Reciprocity?

I love how Superman, while catching Lois Lane mid-tumble from a skyscraper, says: “Don’t worry miss. I’ve got you.” She’s dumfounded. “You’ve got me!” she cries. “Who’s got YOU?”

Indeed, who HAS got who? Would Superman be Superman without people to rescue? Supergirl Ashley has saved me and a multitude of other people, far more ordinary than she is, during her lifetime of “dependence”. In her frequent conversation with the angels, I’m sure those heavenly pals smile and exchange knowing glances every time she benevolently refers to all of us--her personal army--as “The Givers”.

Related Musings: Angel Talkin'
and Match Made in Heaven

Muse with me: Are you a giver or a receiver?

Beautifully related posts by fellow Musers this week:
Special mail to Aileen from her friend.
a touching post at The Alan and Lois Brown Family;.
Scarily Delicious, for a childlike view on "helping" at Crumb Crunchers;
Good Better Best, another fun one at A Splash of Life;
and Lisa reminds me why I braved surgery with
Running? at Nick and Lisa and Kids.


Lois Brown said...

Ramona thank you for highlighting my post about Aileen’s letter. I love all that you said in this post about Ashley and know it to be true!!! And have seen it over and over again through out Aileen’s 26 yrs. Last month I bore my testimony in church and told about an experience that Aileen had just had. The Stake primary had an activity for the 8-11 yr girls where they were teaching them about giving service. They asked if Aileen could be one of the people they served, i.e. gave her a manicure and hand massage, sang to her, taught her how to make and made her a treat and then served it to her etc… Then came the time that the person who was being served was to share a time or two when they had given service as a child or as an adult. So I told these girls that it doesn’t seem that Aileen could give service, but that she really does give a great service. Even people with questionable character are seen in their best light when trying to help Aileen. Aileen gives Heavenly Father a chance to see everyone that helps and takes care of Aileen at there very best. As you can see I am not as eloquent as you but I’m sure you understand what I am saying. I love you my dear friend and thanks for your love and friendship, it has meant a great deal to me through all the years we have known each other!!

P.S. I put a picture of you and I up in front of the Orlando Temple in 1994!

Sara Lyn said...

"Somebody has to humble themselves so that the rest of us can grow." I think that's the thing - we need to humble ourselves and true humility doesn't come easily. At least, to me. When I do "have" to accept help, I find myself wanting to explain why I'm willing to accept it instead of just expressing gratitude. Which is funny, because I don't think, "Wow! I can't BELIEVE this person wanted help with this. Really?!!! Why couldn't they just do it themselves?!" Nope. That's not what is going on in my mind when I'm helping someone else, so am I judging people by assuming they're thinking that of me? :) Hm.... Well, I don't think that's really the reason I think that, but I liked this post and how it helps me see the other side of being helped. :)

ldsjaneite said...

I love being a giver. I have slowly been learning to be a receiver, because I know how much it will bless others lives. I have grown to become very independent and don't like to admit to myself that I can't do something.

But though I am a slow learner, at least one thing has come to me over recent difficult years--I cannot make it on my own; I truly need others to make it in this life. Especially as so many are being sent as the Lord's hands to help me. I would never smack away my Lord's hands if he were standing by me to help. I shouldn't do so with the hands He sends.

Birdnest said...

love your usual! In my current calling and in my profession, I have abundant opportunities to serve and enjoy serving. I must confess, in my infrequent opportunities to be on the receiving end...I have enjoyed those, too. I think I got over the stigma of "taking" when others serve me; Not completely, but enough to enjoy the service. I still prefer giving. I try to help others who must be served, and, if I may, I think I will use your post in the future as you have said it so well...hope your knee recovers and you get the pain-free mobility you desire (have had both knees done and feel your pain) ((HUGS))

Bri... only she said...

Currently? I feel like I'm a receiver all the way. In a sense I think it's good to always think of ourselves as receivers - a sort of gratitude and recognition of where our blessings are coming from. I have always felt enormously blessed ... before I was married I didn't feel like I had had any real trials and so was just enabled to bless others lives. The start of the recognition that I am incredibly blessed IN my trials came when I got bad mono two months after my wedding. I try to think of how others bless me as the Lord blessing me through them. When the Lord blesses me, I am enabled to bless others. It's a beautiful circle.

crumbcrunchersmom said...

Giving can be very humbling. It increases our empathy for others, and creates a special bond. Receiving can be so comforting. Remember when you showed up at my door and I had newborn Bryn and 2 1/2 year old twins and they were all crying at once? As you walked in the house, you said, "I was afraid of this," then got right to work. My worries evaporated. Hurry home - we love you!!

John and Laura said...

We all know that if we're in a funk, the best way to feel better, is to serve someone. So naturally, we assume the opposite is true, right? Receiving is so humbling, at times in a humiliating way. We all want to be Superman. Receiving makes me uncomfortable. I'll work on that. :)

Thanks for the post

Helen said...

I have no idea what I am... I think like Bri I am mostly a receiver. I love to be able to give, but I can think of far more blessings that I have received than I have given out, for which I am grateful.
Sometimes I feel like I am a bucket so filled with everything I have received that I just cant hold any more of it and I desperately need to give back some of what I have received.
Other times I know that I have given until I was bone dry, and that was the time had come for me to start receiving. This process of filling and emptying happens over seasons of life that sometimes stretch over months and even years.
I think I am realising that the balance between the two is not in always having the equal amount of giving and receiving each day, like a tightrope walker, but more like the balance of the tides, pulling away, then coming back in, pulling away and then coming back in and just enjoying whatever part you are in at the moment.

ALB said...

I have always been a natural giver. It was evident even when I was little. I'm sure most of my friends could attest to this for the present day. I didn't truly learn the value of asking for help until a friend stubbornly refused to ask for the help she needed. It was then that I internalized these statements from your post: "somebody has to be served in order for the rest of us to feel good about ourselves; somebody has to humble themselves so that the rest of us can grow" The blessings of being a giver and a receiver are both beautiful. Thank you for this post!

Valerie said...

I have always looked for ways to give and never lack opportunities around me. I haven't been the receiver very often, even times when I felt I needed just a visit from a visiting teacher or that a dinner would be helpful. I have been in RS presidencies before and have heard people comment about how some people really expect and demand too much help and that has kept me from asking even for small things. It's interesting to me when people have recently asked if they can help with yard work, they are afraid to offend me. It is difficult to admit that I can't do everything alone, but it's so nice to know I don't have to.

Bonnie said...

Mona you have one of the loveliest ways of expressing yourself. Your words flow in a beautiful stream of wisdom and beauty! Thank you!

Even the Lord has said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive!" I struggle with it to! Thanks for giving us something more to contemplate, and may the Lord bless you and your sweet husband as you heal!

marzee said...

I love it. How very true that we don't want anyone to serve us. We live in a world that is constantly pounding it into us the need to be independent and self-sufficient. Even the church does this to an extent with preparedness. While these attributes are admirable. . . . what's harder than working hard to take care of yourself is being humble enough to accept help along the way.

The truth of the matter is - that no one can be independently successful. You can't become something unless there is a need for it . . . at the very least, our successes require someone to need our services . . . and in turn of finding our success "independently" it is our responsibility to help others find their successes too.

Sometimes we need to help . . . and sometimes others need to help us. Either way . . . both parties win and are successful.

Thanks for the musing. Glad to read your thoughts.

Trina said...

Just short today but I think many of us have a little of both in us (or a lot of one or the other or both). It's definitely a give and take relationship with the developmentally challenged 19 year old that lives with us. We definitely give but receive even more. The same could be said with the rest of my kids too.

For me the toughest part is receiving when it's not as reciprocated. It's hard not to receive if we aren't giving. Touches the pride in a way that's uncomfortable.

The easiest receiving is when it comes from the Lord. I have many blessings and just want them to keep-a-coming.