“The problem with modern living is that we are too busy to notice that we are being blessed.”
Life of the Beloved
By: Henri L. M. Nouwen
When I am confronted with a new book, I page flip, reading selections here and there. If something resonates, I will often read the book. In Life of the Beloved, Nouwen speaks about the way in which we respond when people say good things about us, brushing them off with “oh it’s nothing, don’t mention it”. In the past, I have done that. I didn’t feel comfortable and I never knew what to say. That happened not long ago when I did something that comes very easily for me. I chaired the food committee meeting, wrote up a summary of the meeting and distributed it to our senior community. It was well received. Next thing you know I found myself being complimented and uncomfortably saying: “Oh it’s nothing.”
Truthfully, I was inwardly pleased. Then Nouwen told me, on page 79, that I was not showing humility at all, but that I was not truly present to the blessing that was being given. So, I tried something new. The next time I said: “Thank You!” It was so easy. Not only did I allow myself to be blessed, I blessed the other person by valuing the compliment. Not only did I feel relief, but I noticed he/she didn’t have to struggle to repeat what she wanted me to hear in the first place.
I live in a world with people who are getting older and just plain old. Not that anyone ever really has much control over life but what we all are doing now is adjusting to our increasing lack of control. Often, we talk about declining health, talk about the house we owned, stuff we had to give away, the car we no longer have. I hear about the children we love, and I hear the pride and the pain as we talk about how successful our kids are and how busy. At dinner we are offered a choice of two specials or the larger menu. Some of the ladies say they don’t care what they get, as long as they don’t have to cook. But gone is control over having what we like to eat, meals cooked with our own recipes, and ability to jump in the car and go whenever we want.
In my world as a trained facilitator, I needed to be aware and insure that everyone had a voice in the discussion and that they felt valued. Now I am keenly aware that the neighbors in my world are progressively losing voice, longing to be heard, needing to be validated. I had no idea what I could accomplish as the Food Committee Chairperson. I hoped that I would be able to facilitate communication between the residents and the staff. Increasingly, since I have very little say (power) to make changes or plan meals, I think the most important thing I can do is validate the people who take time to attend meetings, listen to their concerns, tell them I understand. A task I didn’t want yet now find myself blessed by their appreciation.
Last night a couple of people across the dining room waved at me and I waved back. That was a blessing offered, accepted and returned. What has changed is that I am learning to recognize a blessing. Why has it taken all these years to learn not to devalue what comes easily to me? Why didn’t I learn sooner to appreciate little blessings? Amazingly these folks make me feel loved as I find myself returning that love.
Henri Nouwen reminds me that Jesus looked steadily at the rich young man and was
filled with love. Mark 10:21 Looks like I have another book to read.
Read more about Ann Dolbier here.