debt

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My friend Jeneil wrote a heart wrenchingly beautiful post this morning. It’s a post about love. It’s about what it means to find the grace within oneself to accept help when we need it. It’s about mercy and redemption.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Jeneil and I have known each other for a little less than two years. Despite the fact that we met as fully grown adults (c’mon now, no height jokes please, this is a serious post), mothers and even pretty evolved women, I would dare to say that we met during our ‘formative years’. I don’t think that Jeneil would argue if I said that she and I are both light years from where we were merely two years ago.

I have watched with sisterly pride as my fiercely independent friend has learned to accept help. I’ve watched her struggle to make peace with the fact that this CAN’T be done alone. I have watched her grow. And of course, I have watched her see clearly – as she always does – God’s presence in it all. I have learned so much from her. And I am grateful.

But I got stuck in the middle of her post. I got stuck on the word ‘indebted.’ I got stuck when she said, “I thought, My mess, my problem. Leave me alone to suffer. If you help me, I’ll be indebted and I don’t like that feeling.”

My life is dramatically different from my dear friend’s. Day to day, moment to moment – there are few similarities. But I too need help. I need it every damn day – whether I want to admit it or not. And every day, it is given. I don’t always see it, but only because I don’t always remember to look. Sometimes it’s buried deep in the farthest corners, but it’s always there.

It comes from my friends. It comes from my family – both blood and chosen. It comes from my children’s teachers, administrators, aides, therapists and doctors. It comes from the dance instructor who believes that everyone who wants to should dance. It comes from the researchers who toil in labs and from the waitress who finds us a quiet table in a busy restaurant. It comes from the mothers who bring our story to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and it comes from the woman in the market who doesn’t judge when my girl is having a hard time. It comes from Neuroscience professors who invite parents to speak to their classes and it comes from the man in Home Depot who finds a flower for my daughter when she just can’t handle any more. It comes from the mother at the pool who buys her a hot dog when I’ve forgotten to bring money. And of course, it comes from you.

Today – at this very minute – I need more than I probably ever have. Over the past week, I haven’t been shy about asking for it. I have literally made calls and simply said, “It’s Jess. I need your help.” And it’s been there. God, has it been there.

I’ve gotten better at making those calls. For better or worse, I’ve had some practice. Quite simply, I can’t do this alone. When I can, I give. And when I do, I give big. When I must, I take. I try like hell to do both with grace. I know I often fail. Giving is easy. It’s the taking that’s awkward. Pride is strong.

But what of indebtedness? What of Jeneil’s words I am indebted?

Do those who I love owe me for the times that I give them what I have? Do I owe them for the support that they give me in return? Is there some kind of cosmic scorecard?

With all the respect in the world for my dear friend, I just don’t buy it. I don’t think that debt has any place in her story – or mine or yours. I don’t believe that love – either the great love of God or the humblest love of a friend – keeps account of what it gives or what it receives.

There can be no debt in love.

Unlike any other resource we have, love’s supply can never be depleted – neither God’s nor man’s. Because the miraculous thing about love is that it replenishes itself through the very act of being given away. That’s a pretty amazing thing. What else works like that? As we give it away, it grows.

So to my dear Jeniel – to all of you – I say,

No debt. Just love.

And gratitude. Lots and lots of gratitude.

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25 thoughts on “debt

  1. This was a really great post. I read Jeneile and Teen Autism as well as a few others regularly, I see your comments often. You are a good friend. You are right, we shouldn’t feel indebted. I know that Jeneile wouldn’t feel like someone was indebted to her if she helped them in the same way. I don’t know why we do that to ourselves! Gratitude is a very good thing!

  2. Jess, It’s been awhile since I’ve read your posts. You are an amazing writer with the ability to truly capture the essence of all that you feel. A few years back, well actually about 13 years back, I too was in a position as a very independent woman to find that I needed help. When my 5 year old daughter asked my why I was always angry, I realized I needed help. My community, my friends, were there with open arms. I never felt indebted to them as I realized right from the start that “it takes a village”. Over the years, I’ve had to rely on them during different crises but I have been able to give back to them what I had borrowed. Knowing when to reach out for help is hard but one of life’s most invaluable lessons. I think of you often and hope that you and your family are well. I thought of you yesterday when I met the mother of one of my patients- she too is reaching out to others and now is giving back- she’s turning a horrific situation where there is now some hope into something good, something she can do to help others in her situation. Childhood cancer is life altering and she’s choosing to make something good out of a bad situation. She’s strong just like you and using her gift by channeling her strength into something big. All the best to you.

  3. You offer this parent the greatest gift that you could offer when you express that you understand that giving love returns as much or more to the person offering it as the recipient. You have filled my life with a love I could not have fathomed before I was blessed with you as my child. You have made the lives of countless people so much better because of your boundless love,enthusiasm, and knowlege.
    You have also come to understand that accepting help is a sigh of strength and not of weakness.
    You are my wonderful child, who has become an incredible and wise adult.
    Dad

  4. Beautiful. Thank you!
    It is also hard for me to accept help, to let people into the “craziness that is our life.” But necessary. I’m learning. And today I’m allowing someone to give me that help.

  5. Your Dad’s comments always make me tear up! I’m with you on this. No debt, just love. Love never depletes. The asking for help is something many of us struggle with. I think it has something to do with the divisions of life now. I have this feeling that families and communities used to be closer (geographically speaking) and communities smaller and tighter. Maybe it’s wishful thinking from a woman who often feels marooned in a state without family and few close friends.

  6. I sometimes feel that being able to help a friend is such a blessing and gives me such fulfillment that I actually owe them something for allowing me to help. Backwards debt, because it feels so good to help a friend when you’ve walked in their shoes! A gracious ‘thank-you’ is considered payment-in-full and then some.

  7. I think, for me, “indebted” means forever, deeply, grateful and connected…sort of what mamak said.
    it’s probably not Webster, but when I see that word, that’s what I think.
    Thank you for this today, dear one.

  8. thank you, sweet friend. it’s long been a struggle for me to accept help – totally a pride thing! and to accept a love that freely gives with no expectation of return – that has been really hard to grasp! that friends would stand beside me and scrub poo off my walls (i mean, seriously), that friends would dress up as Santa and elves and bring gifts for my family, that friends would pray and send encouraging cards and packages… i’m humbled and blown away by it! i’m learning to let go of this idea that i have to pay it back somehow. the love i’ve received from you all is teaching me so much about the lavish love of God. and i am forever grateful.

    hope that makes sense. =)

    xo

  9. I can never say thank you enough to the friend that told me about your blog. I can only tell others about it in the hopes that they will read and it enrich their child’s life and make it a happier one. I can never say thank you enough to the mothers and fathers that left comments on your blog that helped my son survive some hard days, I can only tell others what works for us in hopes that it will work for their children too. I know “pay it forward” is so cliche, but it rings true in this instance. You have created a place where we can all share, learn, and pay it forward and for that, I have so much gratitude!

  10. Just last night I had to ask for help, and it was hard. Why is it that way for so many of us? As you so aptly put it – “There can be no debt in love.” I have to keep reminding myself of that. Love to you, my friend.

  11. i’ve learned the hard way over the years that pride acts like a magnet. pride attracts hardship, in equal proportion. the more pride you have, the more life will break you down. always, without fail. to me, going to therapy was humiliating, it meant i was admitting a failure to manage things on my own. the more angry i felt…the more i rejected therapy…the more therapy helped and made my life better. it was a shattering, painful, humbling, constructive experience.

    pride is one-half of a length of a rope. hardship is the other half. they are connected, continuous. when you pull against hardship, it pulls much harder, always. its stronger. letting pride go, letting it drop: the only solution.

    not that i follow this advice. i grab on and pull harder all the time. i’m still waiting for the lesson to fully sink in.

  12. more beautiful connections to honour and be humbled by. Love is my response to those who say they don’t know how I do ‘it’ – be a mother to my son. It seems many people find it hard to accept help with this sort of stuff – the notion of ‘my problem, let me handle it’ tends to over-ride sense. Accepting help is easier when you look at it as accepting love. The people offering help are offering their love. It would be hurtful to say no to that, which is how I get around the pride that makes me want to say no.

  13. “And in the end
    The love you take
    Is equal to the love
    You Make”
    -The Beatles

    By giving love, you are filled with love…if there is a scorecard, each act is a sum zero game.

  14. if we’re “loving” instead of “owing,” than you bet your sweet a$$ i “love” you a heck of a lot!! I’ve never been one that’s had a hard time asking for help and you have never once hesitated for even a second to give it to me… whether it be your time, patience or support (many kinds of support) you never even paused no matter what was going on in your own world. so if you are needing some extra loving right now your little sis is here to give it.

  15. Asking for help and accepting help have always been a challenge for me. Afraid of being weak, dependent, needy – all negative ways of viewing connection. Sometimes for us “modern” women, independence is stressed to a level that we become disconnected. We live in a tower of isolation – we think we are strong, but we are disconnected, alone, powerless.

    This is a great post – it reminded me of why it’s good to ask for help.

  16. Pingback: debt | Oxygen Mask Project

  17. Pingback: Grace to help us « Autism In a Word

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