Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listen...How Are You?

I'm thinking of hanging a sign by my desk, like Lucy Van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip: "Psychiatric Help 5 cents" (can't find the "cents" symbol!). It was only 9:30 and I'd already listened to three tough men tell me their troubles. Granted, I ask. When you ask, "How are you?" are you prepared for the answer? Most people don't really tell you. They tell you they are fine or good or okay, but nobody really wants to know, do they? In fact, I once had someone ask me how I was then walk away! Another time, someone asked me and I said, "Should I tell you the truth or lie?" His reply was, "How about somewhere in between?"

I spoke with two different people in 15 minutes about caring for aging parents with Alzheimer's. One man, my age, lives with and cares for his mother all weekend, every weekend. He works all week. He has no life. He has three brothers, but he is the only one who stepped up to the plate. The other guI'm thinking of hanging up a siy told me of his friend whose mother just passed away-sometimes his friend couldn't work for weeks at a time, because he couldn't leave his mother, who also had Alzheimer's. He also had three siblings. No one helped him. Right after that, Man #3 came in and told me he hates being so busy because it's dark when he leaves and dark when he gets home. Everything that needs to be done at home has to wait until Saturday. He said, "I hate to complain; I know I'm lucky to have work."

Here's what I heard:
Man #1:  I feel so alone sometimes. No one seems to care. I'm in this by myself. I have no life of my own. 
Man #2's friend: I feel so alone sometimes. I'm in this alone. I just can't do it all.
Man #3: Sometimes I feel so stressed. I can't do it all myself.

We all have life issues. We are all dealing with some kind of stress. Some of us have aging parents we are taking care of. Some have children, maybe dependent children, who can't take care of themselves and will never leave home. Maybe we work too hard, too many hours and don't have time to take care of the things at home. Sometimes we all feel alone. Sometimes we all feel like we are doing it all, and that no one cares. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen. Sometimes, we just need to know someone cares enough to take five minutes to hear the answer to "How are you?" And when we ask that question, sometimes, we need to realize that someone might really need to unburden. Even tough men.

Lucy never had a very long line at her booth-maybe that's because people didn't like a know-it-all giving advice. We've all heard that expression, "People don't care how much you know...they want to know how much you care." When Job lost everything, his friends came and sat with him. But it wasn't long before they couldn't resist giving him advice. People don't always want our advice. They just want someone to listen. Paul instructed us to carry each other's burdens (Gal 6:2)...yes, he was talking to the church, perhaps to carry the burdens of our "brothers and sisters in Christ" but limiting it to "the church" would be so narrow-minded! He also told us that each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Rom 14:2). Sometimes, all it takes is a listening ear to build someone up. Sometimes, a person needs to unload some of the weight, if for only 5 minutes. Next time you ask someone, "How are you?" try looking them in the eye first. Care.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day: Show You Care (Life Vest Inside)

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