Raising four children means I have played nurse and caregiver for a long time. My Honey remembers the twenty plus times I have sat through his surgeries, including the most recent last week. Extended family knows I have cared for them when they needed me and over forty years’ worth of responsibilities have kept me busy in church and community. 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 friends and neighbors 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 doorstep 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 a 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 fellow man, but mysteriously, never seem to need help from anyone else? Friend wants to bring us dinner (no-no, we’re fiiiiiiine). Neighbor offers to mow the lawn (noooo really, we’ve got it). Aunt and Uncle ask 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 forty 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.
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 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 dumbfounded. “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”.