I have trouble staying in relationship with needy people.
I’m not talking about female friends who’ve just broken up with the man of their dreams. I’m talking about people who need a ride to the Social Security Office. Those who need someone to visit them in jail. Those who ask if maybe they could stay in my spare bedroom. Those who telephone when they’ve commenced to strangle someone, and you’re the only person they know to call.
Whenever these requests arrive, I pause. Inside that brief moment, I feel the hesitancy inside myself. When a request moves too quickly to the personal, my standard reply is, “Let me think about it.” Perhaps I should be saying, “Let me pray about it,” but that’s not accurate. I can feel myself thinking, frantically: how do I get out of this?
Thankfully, that moment of panic is becoming shorter. The dissolving agent is my remembering to whom I’m talking. I know this person. No, I don’t know ALL about them, but we’ve spent enough time together for me to see that they are no different from the rest of us. There is no need to fear the request, or the requestor.
I hate to say it, but when I remember who I’m talking to, love and caring begins to seep out of me. “Wait right there,” I say to the man whose hands may have been around another’s throat—“I’ll send someone who knows you.”
To me, that is the important point. If it is within my power to help someone else see my friend as a person, to get past the stereotypes, the categories, the predictable assumptions, I will take it. If I can participate in intercepting the known narrative, the inexorable unscrolling of a bad outcome, I will have done what is asked of me.
If you need me for that, please—don’t hesitate to call.
Here’s to creative synthesis . . .