Sunday, September 09, 2012

Offering to Help

As my mom's health began taking a turn for the worse last year, she mentioned one of her regrets.  She says she wished she'd done more things to help her parents as they got older.  At the time, Mom heeded the advice of the social workers and the nurses and the therapists, who all say not to do things to help an elderly or disabled person, if that person is capable of doing the job for himself. 

This makes sense.  Right?  If we cater to a toddler, that child will expect to be waited on.  That child will not grasp for independence.  We will thwart the child's motivation to "Do It Myself!" when we overhelp.  So would it not be the same for a person who's had a stroke or other health impairment?  Are not those multitudes of little, daily tasks sort of like "therapy" practice?

And yet, how much frustration do we allow to crowd in on a person's life?

When we're raising our kids, there's a question we continually bump into:  "Is he ready for this?"  Is Joey wetting his pants because he's not developmentally capable of using the potty, or is he just being stubborn about peeing in his diaper?  Is Susie refusing to stay in her bed at night because she truly needs company and comfort, or is she just being manipulative of her parents?  When your homeschooled 9-yr-old cannot read and cannot memorize his times-tables, is it because he's a lazy so-and-so (and will not do the work), or because he's a late-bloomer (and cannot do the work)? 

But that question doesn't go away when the kids grow up!

We end up with sore muscles.  Do we keep up that exercise regimen we just started?  Or do we give the sore body a rest to recuperate?

Do we give help to the neighbor who's struggling to return the grocery cart to the cart-corral?  Or do we let the man do it himself, as it is his day's exercise? 

Do we help a teenager straighten out the jumbled words coming from a brain that struggles with auditory processing?  Or do we leave her on her own to figure out why we don't understand her question?

I am capable of coming into the kitchen while carrying a bushel of tomatoes.   But I am glad when someone opens the door for me.  Just because I could do it, doesn't mean they should let me.  Or make me.  It's polite to offer help.  It's kind.  It's a courtesy that we should offer to one another.

Those of us who teach children have watched as our students reach the saturation point in their learning.  A fourth-grader wants to read a book for fun that's easy enough for second-graders. Isn't that okay?  Or do we make him read up to his ability level all the time?  A teacher lectures, but must give the students an occasional break to get out of their seats, walk around, chat for a couple of minutes, etc.  When our brains are taxed by new concepts, or hard skills or ideas, we may need a short break.  We need time for the new information and new skills to gel, to settle, to become part of us and our thinking.  That goes for post-stroke therapy, or learning to walk again after an accident.

It keeps coming back to "I can't" versus "I won't."  When someone can't, we respond very differently from when they won't

But how do you know which it is?

1 comment:

  1. There you go again, Susan, honing in on the crux of the matter. I can see so many life applications for this question. But I'm thinking that there is no answer, at least not until long after the fact, when one is looking backward and seeing the consequences of whatever action has been taken. Then you know. But going in, it is so hard to tell, even when the question relates to oneself. We don't want to, so we convince ourselves we can't, when really maybe we can. Or we really do want to, so we convince ourselves we can only to find out we can't. And sometimes maybe the answer changes along the way because circumstances change or we change or simply because God works miracles, bringing about what once seemed impossible. I think as with all things we are left with making the best choice we can at the time given our limited human perspective and trusting the rest into God's hands. I say that like it's easy. Truth is, I find it very hard to trust. Or maybe it's just that I refuse to.