Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Getting Involved

I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours. We went to Florida to visit Shelby's relatives that we do not see very often. In fact, she was able to reunite with her brother and sister who she had not seen in almost 15 years (since the death of their father). It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved and I was glad to be there for it. It was all brought about by a dream one of her aunts had. Her aunt acted on the dream and helped make the reunion happen. The love was everywhere despite the anxiety leading up to it.

During conversations with her family members, I learned things about everything from gardening techniques to remodeling tips to interpersonal relationships. The wealth of information learned on this trip is greatly appreciated. In fact, at the end of this note, I will share the tips related to fostering loving relationships since I feel this information is valuable to everyone who wants to have a loving relationship.

One of the key pieces of information that I have learned previously and have been trying to remember is summed up by this quote, "When someone makes a statement, they are not asking you for something. If they are, they need to ask it." This seems simple enough, but I have found that I am in the habit of automatically jumping into action when someone makes a statement that implies they are in need of something. This gets you into trouble though because it is based on an assumption, which is based on projection, which is based on past experience or programming. I have been focusing on not jumping in to fix things when a problem is stated and it seems to make life less complicated and more clear cut. If you find yourself doing the same thing, you might want to try refraining from assuming the role of fixer before someone asks for your help.

Shelby and I were discussing this and other things on the drive back from Florida and we stumbled on an issue I wanted to come to terms with. How and when do you offer help to someone who you think needs it but who may not know they need help or even want it. Or, when do you get involved when you see something happening that you know does not need to happen and will have negative outcomes if it continues. A basic example of this is when you see a parent mistreating a child. You can see that the situation is a continuation of the same old cycle (i.e. parent mistreats child, child later becomes parent and mistreats their child, etc.) and yet it's not your place to intervene. Or is it? Do you ignore it if it doesn't directly affect you and just let the parties involved live the lives they were intended to lead? They have their life lessons to learn after all.

We were debating this issue and not getting any clear resolution. There is an obvious problem in that the observer is assuming that he or she has a better solution to the situation. The degree of separation also has to be considered. It makes more sense to offer helpful suggestions to a family member in need than it does to a complete stranger. We kept going back and forth on this because I was looking for some rules of engagement to know when to get involved and none were evident.

As we stopped the conversation we stopped for a quick bite to eat. While eating in the car, we realized that we had parked right next to a case of exactly what we were discussing. The man and woman next to us were arguing about something. She was very pregnant and standing in front of the car refusing to talk to him or even get back in the car. A young boy was in their back seat crying and an elderly woman was in the passenger seat sleeping (I'm not sure how). The man, after trying to tell the woman to get in the car because her son needed her, decided he would give her to the count of five to get in the car or he was leaving without her. At this point I wanted to do something, but had no idea what to do without knowing what they were fighting about.

Well, after counting to five he started to leave thinking she would give in. Of course she did not. He finally made good on his word and left. We just sat there and continued to eat. I felt quite bad. After about 10 minutes she had sat down on a bench and cried a little. I finally went over and asked her if she was okay (unsure as to what to say). She smiled and said yes. I asked her if she was sure and she nodded. I said that I just had to make sure and left.

We sat in the car for another minute before we hit the road again. I started second guessing what I should have said, and quickly realized that it was a waste of time and that I had said exactly what I was supposed to say. We also discussed the fact that she was at a busy gas station with a phone inside if she needed to call someone. Though I was reassured by the fact that she would be okay, it was difficult for me to get it out of my mind.

The next day, on our second leg of the trip home, we parked at a rest area. While I was waiting for Shelby to return to the car, the woman parked next to us could not get her car started. She also could not get the hood up on her car after several attempts. This time I got out without an invitation to help and offered my services. I could tell she was a bit reluctant to accept help from a total stranger (which is a sad state of affairs in and of itself), but we were able to get the hood up. She smacked on the loose battery cable (as she had apparently done a number of times) and was able to get it started. She thanked me a couple of times and left. I felt good that I was able to help and was glad that nothing mechanical was wrong as I would not have been able to help with that.

Thanks to these situational gifts, I decided that there is not a clear cut time and place to involve yourself in someone else's life. There is no magical list of criteria to check against before offering a helping hand to someone in need of direction or assistance. It's all shades of gray. Oh well, maybe as I continue to grow I will develop a keener sense of when and how to get involved in another person's life. But I can safely say that I am glad that Shelby's aunt got involved in her life to help bring about a long overdue family reunion. Feel free to share any guidelines on getting involved that you might use as I would love to obtain a bit more clarity on this issue if there is any more clarity to be had.
Take care,

List of Relationship Tips (care of Shelby's aunts)
- Always kiss hello and good bye
- Have a meeting night once a week to discuss things that are on your mind
- Go for walks where you talk about what you like/love about each other and what you like/love about yourself (you can't love someone else unless you love yourself)
- Don't allow yourself to act as your partner's parent
- Lead a full social life together
- Alternate decision days (one person gets to decide what to do/buy one day and vise versa)
- Each person pick a hobby that they want to do with their partner (i.e. one person picks dance lessons, the other person picks tennis lessons)
- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
- Have a romantic date night once a month
- Don't be afraid to ask your partner for something you want

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