Every time I go home, I’m reminded of this story. It isn’t hard to bump into the person who uttered these words, because he’s a prominent person in my hometown.
Single parents are often attracted to other single parents, not in a romantic way, but attracted, as in — we recognize your efforts and accomplishments, can we be friends — kind of ways. The efforts show. The children of single parents who are accomplished within the community are often strong, involved citizens and those parents have a big job to keep up, be involved and participate in their lives.
I’d noticed that often he showed up at events alone. I knew he had been married to a beautiful woman, so one night after a ‘kid event’ I asked about his wife.
He responded, “Do you really care?”
I did. I was so taken back by his response that even when I stood there listening to him answer my question I couldn’t help thinking how much I really did care. The story he told me was shocking. I cared. I offered to ‘be the shoulder’ if he needed to talk. I offered friendship. He never took me up on that… he simply told me his story and walked away. Several weeks later as we met again, picking up our children from an event, I asked how he was doing and he shrugged off a ‘fine’ and the moment passed.
Yesterday, we met again.
I asked. He smiled politely. He said, “Fine.” I touched his arm in passing and we connected on a level that left me feeling incomplete.
We grew up in the same small town. Him the football playing hero, me the shy girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Our paths met, collided, parted and leveled off in different planes, only to meet occasionally as we intersected along the junctions of life. Life has given us different burdens, some similar, others vastly different, but we’ve managed to carry them continuously with a process of stumbling, falling, rising up and walking on. I admire his efforts. I appreciate the man he is. But will he ever know?
I’ve said it. I’ve told him how grateful I am for the man he is, for the load he carries, for the job he does and the strength he offers the community. But, I don’t think he knows I’m sincere. I don’t think he knows how much I really do care. I don’t think he knows that I would walk through fire, because I care that much.
Over coffee with friends at a recent class reunion, another friend said, “You were always so aloof unreachable. I didn’t ask you out, because I didn’t think you’d go.”
…tears fell later that night as I realized that I’d spent many evenings at home alone, wishing someone would have asked, because I would have gone. When I’d tried to join in the fun, I’d felt excluded. When I’d invited them, they didn’t show up. They believed I was unreachable, when, in fact, I was longing for friendship, and for some unexplained reason, the connection was missed. As an introvert, I was proclaimed ‘unreachable’.
As a business professional, my job is reaching out, communicating with the world the accessibility of small businesses, everywhere. It’s what I do, and I’m good at doing it. I draw people in, share myself, my business, my concepts, and my identity. Yet, those precious moments when I desired to communicate my personal interest, concern and caring, I was ineffective.
How can we be so ineffective in communications with people we care about? How can we miss that heart-to-heart language as we reach out to others? Why can’t we know and understand how deeply another person hurts, feels and cares?
What’s the difference?
The difference comes when we begin to recognize the needs of others. Whether we see into the future and understand their need, or simply take a moment, THIS DAY, THIS MINUTE to understand what they need from us. I’m learning that it’s more than simply reaching out and touching the arm of someone in need, but it is actually taking their arm and holding on for as long as it takes to fill their need.
The caring becomes more than just reaching out. You have to reach inside and hold their heart in your hand for a moment and know the beating thrust of blood circulating through them, know they are human.
As an introvert, it’s even more important for me to take that extra moment, beyond just meeting their eyes, holding their hand and saying, “I’m so glad to know you!” I have to hang on a bit longer and wait for the response then communicate clearly that I’m there to help. I love and care for them in a genuine sense of the word. I have to hang on long enough that they GET IT. Without letting go, until they understand I mean the commitment to caring about them as a person.
Sometimes, I have to make the effort to be there, over and over, before they get it. Before they understand how sincere I am.
I’m not unreachable. I’m not infallible. I’m human. But I do care.
Give me a chance when I reach out to you.
Call me. Reach back. Touch me. I’ll be there for you! Whatever it takes.
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