Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bulbs for Easter continued

A person came in for some assistance. One of my jobs is to work with people who come in for help. I call them Avon people because at home church these folks have to ring the bell to come in. At work church, there is no doorbell, but i sort of hear it in my head when they enter. This is a very challenging part of my work. I think to myself with every person I talk to, "This could be one day, this could be me. One month late on my rent, and this could be me. An extended illness, an expensive car repair, and I become an Avon person." Being a single parent has put financial security in a space ship and has sent that concept into outer space.

The reality of helping our Avon people is that some people really do need help, and others are just working the system. Since I am not in a position to judge the difference, I've come up with a system that helps me decide what we can do to empower rather than enable. The system is simple. It is the same system that I relied on to help me understand my children when they were teenagers. I ask questions. and I listen.

I guess I could write a whole long story about assistance but i really only need to say that on this day, someone who really needed help came in seeking it. We talked, and I gave what I thought we needed to, and then I gave him resource suggestions to help him find more help. He, like many, asked what he could do to pay us back. Most of the time, this is a question that comes from a sense of pride, and most of the time, all of the time since I've been doing this, the question evaporates when they walk out the door.

This man sounded like he really wanted to do something to repay us. I told him to let that go, and that is what we are here for. Then, I paused. I knew he had been a working man until recently, and I knew he was in his mid 40's and had an unexpected heart ailment and I knew that major heart surgery often brings depression with the recuperation. I thought how helpless it must feel to suddenly, literally over night be without independence. So, I said, " Well, I'm planting bulbs in a week, do you want to help?" and he said, yes.

I didn't expect him to return and he didn't the next week. But- he called and asked for a raincheck, so I gave him one and lo. LO! Friday morning, there he is sitting on the bench in the lobby waiting for me.

I told him I was so glad to see him, and that I really just wanted the company, I didn't want him to think he was going to be working for the help we had given him. He was shocked. I said it would be the biggest favor to me if he could help me by being with me while I dug. So, together, we went outside and he snipped open the bags of bulbs and I planted them. The 700 planted bulbs grew to 1,000. ( FYI: If they don't grow, I'll deny this entire series)We chatted, he seemed to need to talk, and doing a simple mindless task such as repetitive planting is a good, safe way to just chat. I took him up the street for lunch later and left him there with a friend to take him home; both of us feeling a little better about the world.

So, the idea- the great idea my boss had that sounded so simple showed its true colors. Planting bulbs has already turned into planting good things with others. See how smart that man is??

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