Giving money to strangers.

When people asked Jesus for help, they legitimately needed it. They were blind or deaf or possessed by a demon. When he helped them he didn’t have to worry what they were going to do with his help. He didn’t have to worry if they were going to take what he gave them and use it to get alcohol or drugs.

Jesus says that if someone asks us for a coat we’re supposed to give them a cloak as well. At the time he was talking that was everything you had. Those were your two ways of keeping yourself warm and protected from rain. We are supposed to give them what they ask for and more. Jesus says that if somebody asks you to walk a mile with them, then walk two.

It just doesn’t seem logical to do what Jesus said these days. Here we are 2000 years later and people seem to have twisted this for their own benefit. They ask for help, taking advantage of our soft hearts and our indoctrination to do good. They don’t need money, they need counseling and better life choices. Money won’t help, it will hurt instead. It will enable them to stay disabled.

I say, “Jesus, how are we supposed to handle the situation? What if we’re just aiding and abetting a sin? Is this right to hand them what they ask for which is always money, all the while they’re probably going to spend it on something that’s just going to keep them in the same place where they are?”

Jesus says “It is about them, it’s not about you.”
Jesus says “It isn’t about what they do with the money, it’s about what YOU do with it.”
Jesus says “What they do is between them and God. What YOU do is between you and God too.”

And that’s what it all boils down to. If somebody standing in the parking lot, asking for money, holding a baby, telling a story about how they were robbed and they are staying in a hotel room and they just need enough to get back in the room, give them what they asked for. Give them twice as much as you felt like giving. If they abuse it, that’s on them. But if you don’t help them, that’s on you. Pray for them, and wish them well. And then go on your way.

Poem – I can’t carry it.

I can’t carry it.
I can’t carry the weight
of a thousand bad days,
of a childhood hurt,
of the broken glass
of leftovers, lonely, alone.

I can’t carry it
for anyone

I’m tired of doing double duty
as teacher
as mother,
as counselor
as confidant.

I don’t have training in these things.
I didn’t sign up for these roles.

I can barely carry my own
and sadness
and pain.

I can barely carry my own
and loss.

You’ll just have to carry your own
and I’ll carry my own

otherwise each of us will be
weighed down
bent over
by the
that makes up
a life.

It is enough for one.

I don’t remember saying any vows,
saying I would do this,
marriage or otherwise.
I don’t remember anywhere saying I had to do this.
I didn’t sign on the dotted line.

To hell with compassion.
Sounds like codependency anyway.

Waiting to escape part two.

Right now I feel I’m working an 80 hour a week job, but only getting paid for 40. My other “job” is non-paying, and in fact I spend money at it. Classes in being a facilitator aren’t cheap. Materials aren’t either. Books, drums, paint, canvas, beads all add up. This doesn’t even add in all the time I’m spending learning how to do this thing I don’t even have a name for yet.

I don’t want to charge people to help them. That is part of the appeal of the library. Anybody can come in and get what they need to educate or entertain themselves for free. It is open to everybody. Sadly though, it is more entertainment than education that happens. Sadly, more movies and romance novels are checked out than books on how to make life better – either for themselves or others.

I feel like I’m selling panaceas. I feel like I’m pushing palliative care. The vast majority of people are getting something to ease their pain and bide their time. They aren’t living life – they are escaping it, enduring it. I feel like a sober person working in a bar. I can see through things now, and it hurts.

Doctors swear to “do no harm” and while I’ve not made that same oath officially, I have in my heart. While I’m not encouraging people to get things that are wasting their time, I’m not encouraging them to get anything else either. I’m not allowed to suggest, really, because I’m not a librarian. That requires a Master’s in Library Science. I check in and check out materials. I get you your library card. I serve, and I solve some problems. I’m a facilitator there – I make things easy for them. Facilitators make things easy. But I have an issue with “easy” versus “good”.

“Easy” is getting ten movies to watch at home while you are nursing a hangover, or depressed because you are lonely. “Good” would be learning what you are trying to escape from and working on that. But that is hard. That requires real work. Soul-work is painful. It is like doing surgery on yourself without anesthesia. But the final result is healing and wholeness and harmony. The final result is clearing out the pus of the infection that is bad coping skills and bad habits.

There is too much pain in the world, and it is all avoidable. I can’t wait until people are ready to be healed. People say that the alcoholic won’t change until he’s ready to change. Meanwhile, should I keep giving him booze? I feel that I am doing this every time I see someone check out more time-wasting materials. I see the same people in every few days, getting the maximum number of DVDs or an armload of mindless romance novels. Sure, everybody needs a diversion every now and then. But when all you do is diversion, then you are never going straight on into life.

Entertainment and distraction shouldn’t be the main course. Dessert isn’t filling or fulfilling. Of course, I feel the same way about going to a buffet, but I don’t work there. Half the food is healthy, half is deadly. Too much of the good stuff isn’t good either.

“I set before you a blessing and a curse” God says. We have free will to choose every moment of our lives. I just feel like I’m being an enabler when I help people check out things that are more like a curse than a blessing.

I want to help people wake up to the wonder and beauty of life. I’m trained in processes that help people dig down deep, getting in touch with their true selves. There isn’t a way to do that at the front desk. Perhaps I can ask to teach classes at work? Then my “other job” and my “real job” will start to merge. Libraries are all about the free flow of information and communication. What is more basic than being able to communicate with your own self?

The hen, the ant, the grasshopper, and Jesus

“The Little Red Hen” is a useful story about people who prepare and people who are lazy. The creatures who are lazy expect to get something for nothing, and the creature who worked is having none of it.

“In the tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals (most adaptations feature a pig and a duck) to plant it, but none of them volunteer. At each later stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance. Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. She declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work. Thus, the hen eats it with her chicks leaving none for anyone else. The moral of this story is that those who show no willingness to contribute to a product do not deserve to enjoy the product.” – from Wikipedia

Then there is also the story of “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, which echoes this.

“The fable concerns a grasshopper that has spent the warm months singing while the ant (or ants in some versions) worked to store up food for winter. When that season arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food. To its reply when asked that it had sung all summer, it is rebuked for its idleness and advised to dance during the winter.” – from Wikipedia.

This echoes what the apostle Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.” (RSV)

But fables, and Paul, are not Jesus. What does Jesus have to say about all of this?

Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” (RSV)

This is totally not fair. But human ways of doing things aren’t the same as God’s ways of doing things.

God says in Isaiah 55:8
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

This doesn’t make any of this any easier, though. Isn’t it “enabling” to let someone slide, to get away with being a slacker? It is hard to work as a team and only two out of the three people are working – but you all get the same pay. It is hard to want to help someone who refuses to take care of themselves.

You know, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I grew up with that phrase.

We think like this, but God doesn’t.

It kind of sucks.

I want people to reap what they sow, not what I sow. I want people to fall face first into their own mess, rather than me having to come rescue them from it. But I know I shouldn’t think like this.

This being a disciple is hard. It is kind of like being in AA.

Non-believers think following Jesus is for weak people, but that can’t be further from the truth. Following Jesus means dropping everything that popular culture has taught about being selfish and “every man for himself”. It means putting yourself and your needs last. It means doing the right thing even though it is the last thing you want to do.

The lifestyle to which…

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure why I should have to go to work to pay for someone else to not have to go to work.

I get it if they are legitimately disabled. That is what the system is for. If you are physically or mentally too ill to work, the system is in place so that you won’t starve or lose your home.

I’m not talking about that.

I see no reason why I have to keep someone living “at the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed” when I didn’t marry them. I see no reason why I have to support someone that I didn’t give birth to. If I wanted dependents, I would have had children.

Some people seem to think that they are just sticking it to the government when they get a disability check or food stamps. They aren’t. They are sticking it to the taxpayers. They are sticking it to me.

The government gets its money from taxes. It takes from the poor to give to the poor. The rich have figured a way around this.

So I figure this means that people who are getting money from the government are my employees. They are getting paid by me. But where is the work? What are they doing to earn that money?

This isn’t a very nice way to think, I know.

But I also don’t like it when a perfectly able person is standing in front of me, trying to find their library card in their wallet, and I see the “EBT” card. This is the modern version of “food stamps”. They aren’t disabled.

I knew a guy who was really upset that his wife didn’t qualify for disability. She was mentally ill. She had multiple personality disorder, admittedly because of all the LSD she had done. However, she was well enough to run her own acting company… and he made enough money selling real estate that they were able to build their own house. Their dining room alone had more square footage than a three car garage.

But he still thought she should get disability checks.

I know people who think they should get disability payments for having migraines. Yet they refuse to get enough sleep and take their medicine.

I knew a guy who said he should be on disability because he couldn’t stand for long periods of time. Yet he walked for miles for exercise. He walked five miles from his apartment to the post office one day. He regularly walks the two miles from his apartment to the library. He carries a cane for show – it never touches the ground. But he thinks he should be on disability.

I’ve just recently heard of a guy whose wife left him. He was getting Social Security benefits based on her income. She has a serious medical disorder, but she was the only one employed. He has three cats, and makes sure they are fed. Very little is left over for his food. He also got fired from his last job for yelling at his boss.

So why should I pay for his bad choices? Why should I go to work so he doesn’t have to?

Part of being an adult is taking care of yourself. Why should I pay for a dependant that I didn’t create?

True mental health hospital

I envision a new kind of rehab hospital for people who are mentally ill. Perhaps better said, it will be for people who don’t know how to be human. It will teach people how to take care of themselves. It will teach them how to live on their own in a healthy way.

Rehab shouldn’t just be about getting off drugs but about how to get on life.

People would be there to learn, so they would be students, not patients. “Patient” is a passive word – something is done to you. You are sick, an “in-valid” – a “not-true” person. The word “student” implies an active engaging in learning for self-betterment. Teachers, not therapists, are there to help students help themselves.

One of the most important things will be that students will learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. They will learn what food is healthy and how to buy and prepare it. Every person will learn how to cook. Every person will learn what foods are best for them. There will be a blend of nutritionists and home-economics teachers.

The teachers will find ways that the students can exercise in a way that they will enjoy and are able to do. Exercise is essential to mental health and happy bodies. Not every exercise is possible for every person, and not every person likes every exercise. The trick is to find one or two that the student likes and will stick with. Then they have to commit to doing it daily. Every little bit counts.

This whole idea that I’m envisioning is to teach people how to live in their own bodies as their own homes. Your body is your first and best house. If you don’t take care of it you will be miserable. I have learned from my own personal experience that mental health is directly related to physical health.

It is also important that they discuss what happens when you fall off the wagon. Perhaps the stigma needs to be taken away from falling off the wagon, because falling off the wagon is part of the journey.

For some people it wouldn’t be “re-hab” because there was no “hab” that happened to start off with. They never learned how to take care of themselves in the first place. It isn’t that they forgot, it is that that they never were taught.

Ideally, everyone would learn how to take care of themselves early on in life. Ideally, people wouldn’t have to wait for a crisis in order to learn that they have to take care of themselves.

Perhaps that is just simply part of our society. We seem to fix things after they are broken rather than prevent them from breaking in the first place. This is a habit that should be unlearned. People need to become pro-active about their lives.

Rehab needs to teach people healthy coping mechanisms for life. Students would learn about codependency and enabling and boundaries. They would learn how to be helpful in a way that is safe for them and for the person they are helping.

They would learn the value of volunteering. It is a way to put your own needs and problems into perspective, and to feel not only a part of the community, but a part of the solution to problems.

They would learn how to take care of their bodies and their minds at the same time and learn that they are not separate things. Through books, they would be introduced to teachers from all over the world and all across time. They all have useful information about this thing we call life. Most importantly, they would be given the tools to be able to learn more on their own.

My biggest dream is that rehab hospitals aren’t ever needed, because everyone has already been taught how to handle life’s ups and downs in healthy ways. But until then, we have some catching up to do.

The best medicine you can ever take is to not get sick in the first place. And the best way to do that is to learn how to take care of yourself through eating well, exercise, and learning to establish boundaries.

Alone, lonely

I was at a restaurant once and a husband and wife were there with their two young children. The mom needed to go to the restroom. The dad was left in charge of the children while my mom was away. The children were fine for about a minute and then they started to lose their minds.

The children started crying and wailing inconsolably. They wanted their mother and their mother had simply gone to the bathroom. There was nothing that dad could do to make them happy. It was as if they had never ever been on their own and they didn’t know how to take care of themselves. It was as if they didn’t know how to live without their mother right next to them taking care of everything for them.

This isn’t limited just to children.

I know a guy whose wife has died recently. She was sick for year with cancer. They didn’t expect her to die. In a way, though, it was an expected death because it wasn’t an accident like a car crash or a tornado. They only knew each other for three years, and she was only 42. It is all very sad.

He’s had all the leave that his workplace can give him, but that never is enough. Five days isn’t enough to process a death, even if you’ve had some time to warm up to the fact that it might happen.

He forgot to eat for three days. His clothes started to smell and are rumpled. His hair isn’t combed.

He reminds me of those children. It’s as if he doesn’t know how to exist without her right next to him. Surely he knew how to feed himself and take care of himself before they ever met. But now he’s forgotten.

I’ve heard many stories of husbands dying or remarrying less than a year after their wife dies. Interestingly, the same isn’t true for wives.

All of his friends and coworkers are looking out for him, but he has to pull himself out of this and start taking care of himself. We can’t rescue him from his grief.

It reminds me of baby birds. Sometimes they can’t make it on their own. Sometimes they don’t have the strength to fly. Sometimes they die. Is it fair to them to rescue them, when they don’t have the ability to take care of themselves? That is only a sort of half-life.

Get me away.

It is very hard for me to be any part of the madness going on with my husband’s family right now. I write about compassion and serving people like they are Jesus. I also write about boundaries and dysfunctional families.

These two things don’t go together very well sometimes.

Dealing with them is like dealing with alcoholics. It is as if I have a friend who is a drunk. I say “Don’t drink and drive, because you might have a wreck” and they think they know better, so they drink, and drive, and total their car. And then they say “Hey, I don’t have a car anymore, can you drive me around? Or lend me money for a new car?”

They aren’t drunks. They are just needy, and manipulative, and making bad decisions. They want things done for them that we don’t have the time, energy, or money for. They want things done that I told them we would not provide, yet they are getting them anyway.

The only trips they took my husband and his brother on were of the guilt variety. Lots of abuse – physical, verbal, emotional. It is hard to muster up the desire to take care of someone who harmed someone I love. It is hard to want to help them when they have not admitted to or apologized for the damage they did. They continue to manipulate and control, even now.

And I just have to get away from all of this. It doesn’t require the skill of a prophet to see where all of this is headed.

I told them not to get a house with a yard when they moved up here. I pushed for them getting an apartment. They are both old and not as able to take care of themselves, much less a house with a yard. Plus, when they die or have to move into assisted living, that house will have to be dealt with. That mortgage will still have to be paid.

By us.

I told them that my husband barely has time to take care of our yard and house, and they said that they wanted a yard because she wanted to garden, and he needed the exercise. Neither has happened. They call my husband or his brother over to work on their yard and to maintain their house. Electrical switches, plumbing issues, hedges trimmed. So work doesn’t get done at our house.

A year ago my mother in law finally started to admit to herself that her cancer diagnosis was terminal. In the meantime, my father in law’s Parkinson’s has gotten worse, and he’s starting to get dementia.

I said they need to move into assisted living, ASAP. Nobody listened to me. They are toughing it out at their house –their house which is too big for them. That house is impressive, a show. It isn’t practical. It is bigger than they need. This is normal for them, always having to impress people, always having to have the best.

She’s in rehab right now. She passed out, hit her head, got a concussion, and broke her leg. Rehab, to teach someone how to walk again – someone who will be dead in probably three months because the cancer has spread to her lungs.

They are not thinking ahead. They are about to leave a big mess for us to have to clean up.

See? They didn’t listen, wrecked the car, and we are having to pay for it.

I’m trying to be Christ-like in this. What would Jesus do? What should I do?

But then I remember that Jesus didn’t have to deal with his parents in law, or even his parents. Jesus never got married, and died before his parents did. He raised people from the dead. He didn’t have to watch them die or bury them or sell their stuff. And he certainly didn’t have to do any of that while working a full-time job.

I finally realized that my parents-in-law or my husband or his brother, or even his wife – none of them have been the caregivers for a dying person. I’m the only one who has. I’m the only one who has also handled an estate. I’m giving advice on what to do next because I’ve been there, and they are ignoring me. They think they know better. They are pretending like this will all go away.

Meanwhile, everything that I said was going to happen has happened. I can see the train on the tracks, headed right for us.

I’m trying to stay out of it. I can’t handle any of this madness.
I hate it.
I’m angry and sad and tired.

I want to do the right thing. I also don’t want to be seen as a hypocrite – someone who talks about Jesus and compassion and service and then bails when the going gets rough, when things get real.

But there is also codependency and enabling to consider too.

If I rescue them, if I essentially say that it is OK for them to screw up their lives and drag us down with them, that isn’t being very loving.

Sometimes there aren’t any easy answers. Sometimes there aren’t any answers at all. Sometimes there isn’t a happy ending. Sometimes it just sucks.

Adulthood – being independent versus being an “adult child”.

I saw a Facebook post recently that I really liked. It said “I think you should pay for your own mortgage, birth control, college loans, food, and cell phones. This isn’t because I’m a Conservative. It is because I’m an adult.”

If you have to have someone else pay for these things, whether it is your parents or the government, you aren’t an adult.

I’ve never identified as a Conservative, but I agree with this.

I feel that people need to take care of themselves, and the more that we do for them, the more we are harming them. The more we let people take care of us, the more we are stunting our own growth.

Remember the phrase “Age is just a number”? That is usually used to say that it is never too late to play. It goes along with “You are only as old as you feel”. These are meant to be inspiring. These are meant to encourage you to follow your dreams and to be yourself.

But they have another side to them. You can be 40, even 60, years old and still dependent. You can be technically an adult and still act like a child – expecting everybody else to take care of you and clean up after you. You can be an adult legally, but a child emotionally.

Now, is that your fault, or the fault of the people who rescue you? If nobody rescued you, you’d have to take care of yourself.

Some important words here –

I know too many “adult children” who use their parent’s library cards because they have run up the fines on their own. I know too many “adult children” who blame everybody else for their own problems. I know too many “adult children” who live at home with their parents.

I’ve met many “adult children” who still use their parent’s address as their legal address. They say “Well, your parents are always going to be there, right?”

No, they aren’t.

I’m starting to think that one of the best things my parents ever did for me was to die when I was 25. It made me grow up fast. It made me have to become independent. If things get hard, I can’t just move back in with my parents. I can’t just quit my job or get divorced when things get hard and retreat back to my old room. I can’t call them up and beg for money when there is an emergency.

I have to plan ahead and look out for myself. I had to become an adult.

And I expect everybody else to do the same.

What do you say I am?

Recently I have been asked if I was a minister or a teacher. This was in two different settings, but it was close enough together that I decided to start thinking about it.

In both situations I kind of hedged. I didn’t really say no, and I didn’t really say yes. I am both, in a way. I’m both at the same time, but not officially.

But what makes one official? The paperwork? A ceremony? Does training count? What kind? Or is it simply if you do the work, you are the worker?

For three years, I’ve tutored kindergartners who have learning disabilities or have English as a second language. Before that, I did the same in college for years. I’ve taught classes on various subjects in the medieval reenactment group I was in. I’ve taught classes at my old church. In all these situations, what qualifies me is that I do the work. I just know how, and I do it.

I’ve taken classes in Pastoral care, in the Circle process, and been in the discernment process to be a deacon. I’ve read many books on how to be a minister and how to bridge cultures and styles. I’ve gotten certified as a minister online so I can legally perform weddings for people who are not affiliated with a religious community. In this, what qualifies me is the training.

To me, part of being a minister or a teacher is not that I think I’m better than those that I minister to or teach. It is that I feel it is my blessing to help them remember their own power. It isn’t about “lording” over people. It is about leading them back to themselves.

My goal in both being a minister or a teacher is to help build bridges. I’m a facilitator, a translator. I find out what is preventing them from being able to fully be themselves, and I find a workaround. Perhaps there is some prayer form that they don’t know about. Perhaps they would enjoy painting more than beading. I try to find the best fit for the person.

When people ask me if I’m a minister or a teacher, perhaps I should ask them “What do you say I am?” like Jesus did. Jesus didn’t tell anybody what he was. He just did the work – with no training and no certification. He was all about just getting in there and doing it. He wasn’t ordained, and he didn’t ordain anybody. He was actually against the idea of giving over your power to authority figures.

Perhaps if people on their own are asking me if I’m a minister or a teacher, I am. If they see me that way, then I must be that way, right?

But I’m not a minister or a teacher in the way they think I am. I don’t want them to then think that I have some authority or power over them. It is the exact opposite. I’m here to help them find themselves. I’m here to help remove stumbling blocks. I’m more of a facilitator – I make it easier. In a way, I’m more like a cheerleader than a coach.