The Youth Minister at my church preached on Acts Chapter 2 this past Sunday. He talked about what the early church looked like and challenged us with trying to follow suit. He spent quite a bit of time on verses 44 and 45. "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Sharing. Seeing a need and meeting it. I'll be the first to admit that my greedy heart could use an overhaul in this area, but I found myself unable to think about anything during the sermon but the loneliest time in my life. A time when I had needs I could not get met.
Although we as a church (myself included) are not doing what we should to eliminate poverty, most people living in affluent suburbia, where I reside, are happy to chip in to meet a monetary need. In my own personal experience, it is the gift of time that is the hardest to solicit. I think this is true in all walks of life, but when it comes to families impacted by special needs, help can be almost impossible to find. And these unfulfilled needs can be downright isolating.
About three years ago, my chronic back pain became unbearable right about the time my husband had to go out of town for several days to meet work commitments. Shelby is 100% dependent on us for bathing, dressing and toileting. I was 100% incapacitated in this area. As you can imagine, I needed a lot of help. I approached many friends, but only found one willing to do the hard things. Before you jump to conclusions about everyone else not being "good" friends, they all had legit excuses. One need I had was for someone to be at my house to meet Shelby's bus from school and stay with her for a short time so I could go see a doctor. One friend declined because she had to pick her own kids up from school. Well, this wasn't news to me. I knew she had kids and what time they got out of school, so I would not have asked if it wasn't a desperate need. I guess I just figured that it would be much easier for her to ask someone else to give her typical kids a lift home this once than it obviously was for me to find someone to help with Shelby. But all I said was, "ok, thanks". And cried. Another friend was so hesitant and afraid to take care of Shelby that I rescinded the request. And cried. But what joy she missed out on by not getting to know my daughter better. The one friend who came whenever I called, overcame fear, missed sleep, made other arrangements for her own kids, and changed my teenaged daughter's diapers won my respect and appreciation forever. I hope I have expressed this enough to her that she recognizes herself here, but just to be sure I think I'll thank her again.
I do have to take some of the responsibility myself for not having help when I need it. I'm not very good at asking for it. I don't think most middle class dwellers are - but especially parents of a special needs child. We think everyone is too busy and that our needs are too great. We don't want to be a burden. But we miss out on a big piece of community, which we were created for, when we trudge through life on our own strength. The camaraderie created when my friend entered my world and lifted a load off my aching back cannot be replicated with GNO's or even bible study groups.
I think as Christians we know how to give. We can tithe, give to charities we believe in, and throw a garage sale to help fund a missionary. We make a meal when there is sickness or tragedy and chip in to fund a need when we hear about it. All those are wonderful things. But we can do more. I think we (at least I) have lost sight of sacrifice in giving. Can we be moved to give when we are worried about our own finances? Will we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable? How about inconvenienced? Here's my takeaway as I've meditated on this the last few days. I want to be more like my "yes" friend. When someone asks me for a favor or presents me with a need, I want to go beyond checking my calendar for conflicts. I want to do more than look at my bank account balance. When I see the obstacle to assistance I want to ask, "What can I possibly do (move, cancel, rearrange) to make this happen. I know that sometimes the conflict will be so significant that my hands are tied. But I would be willing to bet that more than half the time I can make something work with the willingness to do so. When others' needs are as important or more important than my own, then I am being the Acts 2 church.