Matt was five and Anna was two. One day, late in the afternoon, I asked Matt to take Anna and straighten up their room while I made dinner. Matt was a very responsible 5-year-old and actually liked to organize things (traits that are still a part of him today). I worked on dinner and paid little attention to them for a while because there were no sounds of conflict or disaster coming from their room.
As I stood at the sink washing vegetables I heard my dear boy’s trembling voice behind me say, “Mommy….I can’t do it.” I turned and there stood Matty with giant tears rolling down his cheeks. “I’m sorry, Mommy, I can’t do it.” My first thought was to be alarmed that something had happened to Anna, but she stood behind him in 2-year-old oblivion grinning at me.
“What can’t you do, honey? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t fix it, Mommy, it’s too big.”
“What’s too big, Matty?”
“My room…I can’t do it.” And more giant tears rolled down his cheeks.
I took his hand. “Let’s go look, honey.”
As we walked into the kids’ bedroom, I immediately understood the problem. In his desire to clean the room really well they had emptied everything into the center of the room: sheets, blankets, pillows, books, puzzles, toys, shoes and clothing. Anything they could reach was now on the floor. It was quite a sight.
I looked down at my son who still held my hand. His tiny shoulders were stooped and a couple more tears escaped his big brown eyes. He just didn’t know what to do with the mess he had created. I looked at Anna and she was still grinning at the giant pile, oblivious to what it meant (…ahhh to be 2 again).
I knelt down, “Matty, dinner is about ready so let’s go eat. After dinner Daddy and I will help. It’s okay, honey. It will be fine.” We ate, cleared the dishes, and the four of us went into their room.
“Matt, why don’t you put all the books and puzzles back in the bookcase. Anna, Mommy wants you to put all the toys back in your toy box. Daddy will make the beds and I will put the clothes back in the dresser drawers.” In literally ten minutes the room was perfectly ordered and for our son, a great burden had been lifted. It turned out to be a great and even fun time for all of us.
The problem wasn’t a big deal to me or Budd. But for our 5-year-old, it looked insurmountable. We could have played hardball, “You two made the mess, now you clean it up. Figure it out.” But we know a 5-year-olds limitations (even with the ‘help’ of a 2-year-old) and the answer was “us” rather than “them.”
The principle is still true today. “Us” is better than “me” or “them.” Together, life is so much more doable. Where in your life today could you use some support? What do you find yourself ill-equipped to handle on your own? Maybe it’s marriage or parenting, finances, family or friendships. Perhaps its depression or physical limitations. Whatever it is you face today, you don’t have to face it alone. Whether its professionals we engage or friends we open up to, look around at what God has provided for you or through you. A small thing for you may be huge for someone else, or what seems massive to you may be an easy do for someone else. It happens all the time. We just need to be aware and available. Own up to your gifts and abilities…and own up to your needs. All of us together make for a really beautiful picture of love and grace.
How could you make a difference for someone? Where could you benefit from the knowledge or skill of someone else? Personally, I am always in need or want of a little help from my friends….
A couple months after Budd died I had a major issue with my house. I don’t remember the issue but I was at a total loss as to how to fix it. I was still so scattered and numb. A friend connected me with a man in our church who ran his own handyman business. Bruce came to my home, quietly fixed whatever was wrong, refused any compensation and assured me he was happy to do it. It was not a big deal to him, it was huge to me. To this day, I am so deeply grateful for his kindness, his skills and his generosity toward me.
There was a woman in our church who was without family, dying of cancer. She asked me to help organize her apartment and serve as her medical decision-maker. With friends, we did an amazing job on her apartment, organized her medical and financial needs, and walked with her until she took her final breath. It wasn’t anything that difficult but it was a life-changer for her.
Sometimes we think that helping and serving others needs to be huge. “Here, let me part the Red Sea for you.”1 “I happen to have a few smooth stones here, I’ll slay your giant.”2 Jesus calls us to love with what we have: a cup of cold water3 or aid to a man who has been robbed and beaten4. When Jesus wanted to do “God-sized” miracles like feeding 5000 people with just a boys lunch5 or turning water to wine6 to salvage a wedding celebration, he invited people to help by passing out food or filling water jars. [If you aren’t familiar with these inspiring stories, I’ve given you references in the Further Reading section below. They are a good read.] We are never asked to do miracles or to perform feats that only God can do. But we are invited to do what we can. Do what is in front of you. Use what you have and what you know.
We are created to live with friendship and connection. I think there are people who are benefitting today from my love, prayers, support and care for them. I benefit every day from people in my life who love me, pray for me, challenge me, question me and support me. You get the idea. It’s a beautiful two-way street.
You were never intended to do life alone…to manage life alone. You can make a difference for someone today and perhaps others can make a difference for you. Think about it…ask God. Choose today to be a part of God’s grand plan that we all thrive…together.
1. Exodus 14:5-31A God-sized miracle where God literally opened up the Red Sea s o his people could walk across on dry land. God told Moses to put his stick in the water first, that was his role. God parted the water and they walked across on dry land. Wow.
2. 1 Samuel 17:1-51 Goliath was a giant with a bad attitude. He threatened God’s people who were petrified of him. God asked a young shepherd to defeat Goliath with a slingshot and five little stones. David did his part God saw that the stone hit its mark with fatal consequences.
3. Matthew 10:42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.
4. Luke 10:25-37 Jesus tells the story of a man who has been robbed and beaten , several people walk past and do nothing. We are challenged to intervene for the sake of others.
5. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15 Feeding thousands with one little lunch.
6. John 2:1-11 Jesus rescues a wedding celebration by turning water to wine. He invites the servants to join in by filling water jars.
2 Corinthians 8:12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.