Thursday, July 16, 2020


This is the seventeenth in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.


God, I believe, is responsible for calling me to one of the "helping professions." After fifty years into it, I have learned one very important lesson - one I tend to forget every once in a while and have to be slapped awake again.  Wanting to help people is one thing. People wanting to be helped is another. 

Just recently, I was sitting on my deck with a friend, sharing my frustrations of trying to help people down in the islands. At the end of my litany of woes, he looked me in the eye and said, "You can't change those people!" While I am not ready to give up, it was another one of those reality slaps across my consciousness.  I have never set out to change the whole country, but if I can change one life it will have been worth it! I'm still processing his words. I need to admit that I was causing my own problem by maybe wanting to fix too much too fast.  Obviously, I will need more patience. 

What made it so jolting was the fact that I had just come from a funeral of an old friend whose wife had reached the end of her rope trying to reach out to his children from a previous marriage. No matter what she did, it was not working. Every outreach had been rejected, but she was still trying. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get her to let go and take "no" for an answer. She was causing her own problem by wanting too much to be accepted by them. I am confident that, in time, she will learn to accept their "no," let them go and move on with her life. 

Years ago, when I was a young priest, I was assigned to work with a religious Sister. No matter what I did to try to work amicably with her, it was rejected. I assumed that I had just not come up with the right approach so I tried and tried again. I took my situation to a group counseling session. After presenting the stalemate to the group, I kept saying to them, "Maybe if I tried this? Maybe if I tried that?" The more I talked, the more they laughed. Finally, one of them shouted forcefully, "When are you going to take "no" for an answer? She doesn't want to work with you!" I had to realize that I was causing my own problem by wanting her to work with me too much! I had to accept "no" for an answer, let her go her own way and move on with my life!

Most of my life, I wanted a problematic acquaintance to be different from the way he was! It wasn't till I was thirty-seven years old that I finally accepted the fact that he was not going to change and that I was going to have to live without the change I wanted! I was stuck in one of those situations where I believed that if I did not like something long enough, it would go away. I had to realize that I was causing my own problem. I had to finally accept "no," "let it go" and move on with my life. 

Behind each one of those predicaments is a situation that the one who wants to help did not cause and cannot fix from the outside. The door knob of change is on the other side of the door and no matter how much one begs them to open the door, if they don't want to open the door or see a need to open the door, they won't! That leaves one with two options. You can wait till they are ready or you can just move on and let them be! Either way, you need to quite knocking on the door demanding they open it for you! 

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