I’m not really sure why, I just felt down and lonely and not quite myself.
OK, I just lied. I think I may have an idea of why I was feeling that way…
See, I have some folks in my life right now who are sick. Not “unto death” as they say, but they’re not in the best of health. And as I’ve visited with these people and tried to be supportive, I’ve realized that most of them have other folks also caring for them – most notably children and/or spouses.
I have neither.
So I can’t help but wonder "who will take care of me when I’m sick? Who will bring me groceries or run my errands when I can no longer do it for myself?"
For me, it’s a frightening thing to ponder, which is why I don’t do it very often, but it is real.
Now, back when I was a married grown-up church girl I had a lot of young people in my life. They were mostly young women and little girls, nieces, who were on my former husband’s side of the family. I did a lot for these girls. A lot.
We were very close, I had no reason to believe that our relationship would ever end. And there was probably a part of me that thought that they might care for me when I became old Aunt Gail who needed some help.
But when my marriage ended, so did my relationship with these girls – a couple of whom were old enough to make that decision on their own. That was hurtful, but let’s save that for another blog post.
Anyway, when I woke up the other morning, I thought about all of the time and money and effort I’d invested in them and into our relationships and I wondered if it was worth it. And if I think of all of that as currency, I wonder what I got in return.
In other words, after I put so much of myself “on the counter” for them, what did I get back in change?
A sense of satisfaction, knowing I was doing the right thing? Check!
Some laughter and fun times? Check!
Family gossip? Check!
But was that really enough? In some ways it was, it other ways it was not.
Thankfully I have biological nephews and a niece whom I love with all my heart and who love me back. I know they can be depended upon in my time of need, but whatever they do for me will be done out of the goodness of their hearts. They don't "owe me" the amount of change that these other people did and that's because they have great parents and a strong support system in place, so they have never required as much from me.
One thing this journey called Life has taught me is to count my change and to do so honestly. If I’m putting out a lot more in terms of time and treasure than I’m getting back, maybe I need to stop, change course, and do something different.
It reminds me of something that happened when I was in the 6th grade…
It all revolved around a girl named Ann (not really, but for the sake of illustration we shall call her “Ann.”) She was very unpopular, but she was also very mean, so you don’t need to feel too sorry for her.
For example, once I returned to school after having lunch at home with my grandmother, and Ann had told my friends that my grandmother was dead. She was not a nice girl.
Anyway, one day Ann’s mother came to school with the intention of making us feel horribly for not being her daughter’s friend. She told us a short story, one I that I guess she thought we could relate to since we were somewhere around 11 and 12 years old. Ann’s mother said:
“When you put your money in the bubblegum machine, you expect to get bubblegum. Now, when Ann tries to be nice to you, she expects you to be nice to her in return.”
At the time, I thought this was the dumbest thing I’d heard. And it only served to make us think that not only was Ann mean, her mother was stupid! Poor Ann. I tell you, I laughed about that episode for years, I really did, which is why I can so easily quote for you something I heard so many, many years ago.
But now I get it and I’m no longer laughing.
She was concerned that if Ann were to “count her change” she’d see that she was giving away, or paying out, a lot more than she was getting back. And it must have hurt her to see her daughter being treated this way.
Maybe we all need a little of Ann’s mom in us to force us to ensure that we’re not being taken advantage of… to pay attention to who we help and why we help them… and to make us count our change.
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