Sunday, May 22, 2011
"Love Thy Neighbor?": Now Why The Crap Would I Want To Do That?
Whether you're a church-goin' person or not, we've all heard the "commandment", "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Some of us are better at this than others. Some of us probably care a ton and have a cup of sugar waiting by the front door on the off chance that a neighbor will need to borrow it. Some of us absolutely suck at loving our neighbors. A lot of us probably don't even know who our neighbors are. Other could simply care less.
You don't have to be Christian to have a desire and need to "want" to help others. There's a component to simply being human in most of us that enables us to outwardly express kindness and compassion toward others. Perhaps there is a genetic component as well. Some of us got the "good neighboring genes" and some of us got the "bad neighboring genes"--and some of us probably have a combo of both the good and the bad--the "mediocre neighboring genes".
"Ok, Whitney, why are you being all warm, fuzzy, and serious with us--did you just get out of church or something." Why yes, I did! Thanks for asking. But that's not why I'm writing this. And don't worry--in true Whitney form I will be back to writing about my more "typical" blog topics like Brazilian waxing and fantastic footwear after I get my point across with this. Also, in case you were concerned--I'll be questioning myself more than pointing the finger at any of you in this blog--it will be like I'm roasting myself and you can kick back with some popcorn and watch. Good times...
I have neighbors. I have no idea who they are, but they pass by me on a fairly regular basis considering the close proximity of their home to mine. I can't tell you their names. I know one of them likes mountain biking, and drives a Mini Cooper. I think he also smokes weed from time to time because I live downwind from him and I like sitting on my balcony where there have been a few times I was certain I had achieved a contact high. I have another guy who lives on the other side of me. He is out of town a lot so I rarely see him. He rides a motorcycle and throws loud parties when he does come back into town. I've met both of my neighbors a few times. They seem pretty nice. I think they told me their name once, but I'm not that good with names so I promptly forgot them.
Neighbors aren't really just the people who live close to you. I think the commandment should be re-written as, "Love All Those Other People You Bump Into On a Daily Basis As You Love Yourself". A "neighbor" could be someone you hold the door for at a store, a car you help to push when it runs out of gas, or picking up a pacifier for a family who has a baby who dropped it on the floor. You know--typical, run-of-the-mill, warm, fuzzy stuff that you can do for people each day. Some of you might be saying, "Duh Whitney, I've been doing kind things like this for people on a regular basis since I was knee high to a grasshopper. PS This blog is boring the crap out of me." And I get that. But have you ever taken time out for a moment to reflect on some of the opportunities that you had to be "neighborly" and you dropped the ball on them? I'm talking about those moments where you think, "Meh...somebody else can do it this time--I'll get the next one."
I have had some of those moments recently. Even before I went to church today I have been struggling to deal with an opportunity that I think I completely overlooked--a chance that I had to be helpful but chose to look the other way. Some of you may have seen my blog about my shopping trip to Nordstrom this week. Although it was fabulous, and wonderful to see my friend and shop with my family, something happened in that store that has made me sad all week. I don't know if it's because I felt sorry for this person, or if it's because I could've helped them and instead I ignored them, or maybe both.
I went to the loo in Nordstrom. I heard someone enter the stall next to me very rapidly, and within about 2 seconds there was a flood of urine running down her legs into a puddle on the floor. I
happened to peer over at the floor in her stall to see her shoes were covered, and I could hear she was frantically pulling TP off the roll and trying to clean everything up, including trying to pull enough wads of toilet paper off to absorb the puddle she had made. At first I was like, "OMG...what the heck? That's disgusting!" And then I just stood there for a minute, collecting my things, and for a moment I tried to imagine what that woman must have been feeling; how embarrassed she must have been; how sad she probably was to have lost control over her body like that; how panicked she must have been to get the mess cleaned up so nobody would see it. I felt bad. Not only did I feel bad for thinking she was disgusting at first, but I felt bad because I should've wanted to help her from the start...and I didn't. After I did decide that maybe I would try to do something, I realized I didn't know what to do. I thought about maybe asking if she needed anything. I'm a nurse, and I thought, "If this happened to a patient at work I would certainly help them and put new clothing on them." But I was not at work. I stood there in my bathroom stall completely perplexed for a moment."What can I do? Should I do anything? If I ask her if she needs help is that just going to embarrass her more? Should I ask her if she needs a new pair of pants or underwear so she can make it out to her car at least? I could go buy her some if she needed them--? But then I would have to worry about where to buy them, and what size she is and...that's it--I'm just going to go wash my hands and get out of here now."
I opted out. It's been bothering me all week. What if she really did need help and I just looked the other way? I was probably the only person in the bathroom who knew what had just happened to this poor woman and I chose to pretend I didn't see it at all. I've had a couple of days to reflect upon the situation now and it makes me sick to my stomach. Where was my compassion? Where was my sympathy? Why didn't offer to help her? I have a job as a nurse where I help people in these types of situations all the time and think nothing of it, only now that I was at Nordstrom it became "disgusting"??? I was really disappointed with myself. It's one of those, "Hindsight is 20/20" moments and if I could do it over again I would do it differently. I would've offered to do something.
I go to church on a regular basis, but I certainly have my shortcomings. I like it when people "practice what they preach" but I suck at this sometimes. At times I'm great at it, and other times...not so much. I don't look at myself with a "holier than thou" perspective. I'm keenly aware that I have opportunities placed before me in my life, on a fairly regular basis, that I could be more "Christlike" with, yet I consciously choose to do things "my way" instead. For example: I recently had to bid farewell to a friend of mine. I adored her, but she started dating a guy I absolutely did not approve of. I still don't approve of him--only now she's engaged to him. At first when she started telling me about him I was brutally honest with her--so much so that I could tell by what she was texting back to me that I was really hurting her with my words. However, I thought it was so important to get my point across to her that I continued to say them anyway. I know that the "right thing" to do is to get over my opinion and be happy for her. But I can't. I have this overwhelming gut feeling that this guy is not a good person for her, so rather than being a good, supportive friend I have completely cut her out of my life. So much so that I recently heard some details about her upcoming wedding and I stopped the person telling me and said, "I don't care, so please just stop right there." And it's true--I really don't care. I care about my friend, but I can't get over how I feel about her relationship so she is now out of my life. And the truly sad part is that it will likely stay this way because it is not humanly possible for me to muster up any feelings of happiness for her. What's the opposite of a warm fuzzy feeling?...because that's what I feel about this situation.
"How's that Christlike thing workin' for ya, Neighbor?" Not so well at times, thank you very much, Mr. Non-Existent Heckler Person.
These are just two examples of recent opportunities I have had to be more "neighborly" and helpful with people. Two instances that I completely crapped up by being a crappy person in these situations. It's not reasonable to expect that we are all going to be at the top of our game all the time when it comes to helping others. I talk a lot at times about this life being a "process of refinement", and learning to become a better person every single day. I will always likely fall short of perfection with this. I don't know how to be at the top of my game all the time with "loving my neighbor". Heck, I don't even know how to care about my friend whose fiance I can't handle. But knowing, and learning from each and every circumstance I go through in my life is hopefully going to lead to me doing things better and better the next time, and the next, and the next.
Whether it be Karma, or Christ, or Jelly Beans that you believe in, there will always be need, and there will always be opportunities to interject and be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Can you imagine what our world would look like if we all started to try to be more helpful to one another? I may not be able to fix the circumstances that I failed in my past, However, I will continue to strive for improvement. In other words, I'll give it the old college try. How bad could it be??? ;)