A friend pointed out to me recently that lives sometimes intersect just long enough for us to help in one specific way, not to develop a long-term relationship–and that’s okay. Slivers of time in which we can offer a word, a hand, a smile that gets another person through the moment.
It was true when I met “Brave’s” mother at ER five months ago. She needed us to help her bridge from the fear and paralysis of having her 14-year old attempt suicide to the courage to be proactive in getting Brave legally and permanently out of an abusive home. Once that process was well on its way and Brave was safe, she was grateful and we felt close but we sort of fell out of touch with each other. We didn’t have to become each other’s new best friend.
The other day I was picking up subs at Quizno’s when a homeless woman, manoevering a shopping cart plus a baby carriage full of belongings, approached me. She wanted $5. We don’t give money to strangers. We give to the local rescue mission and let them sort out who’s “deserving.”
So I offered to buy her something from Quizno’s instead. She asked me for a meatball sub, chips and milk. She spoke obliquely about needing money and a place to stay and a church that could help and some way to do something about her hair.
I bought her a meatball sub, chips, and tea (her second choice; they didn’t have milk). I didn’t give her money, I didn’t take her home with me, I didn’t wash her hair for her. I didn’t try to meet every need she had, as I would have in the past. I asked her name, gave her a hug, and referred her to a nearby church.
As I started to leave with our own food, a friend of ours was just walking up, coming to buy himself lunch. I introduced him to Sharon and knew she would probably approach him for money on his way out. Let him decide whether to meet one of her needs in his sliver of time with her, I thought.
Others have been there for me in slivers of time. None of us have to do everything but maybe each of us can do something.
It feels good to have boundaries.