A manager I worked for many years ago provided the phrase I am using as my title to describe our habit of helping friends. It was her response after hearing about a friend we were helping at the time. She couldn’t claim credit for it as the credit actually went to a friend of hers who had the same habit.
Garbanzo and I have a long history of “adopting strays” if you will. The fact I am referring to our friends as strays is not meant to belittle them. These are people who are close to our heart, and we would help out of any situation. And, they have found themselves in a situation without a home or without food, so we’ve taken them in to help them out.
Some of my readers may wonder how and the hell can we do this. I mean, we’re grown-ups with our own lives and with kids who will at a moments notice offer to take someone into our house. Sounds crazy, huh? Sound disruptive? Trying to live with another adult after its taken years to figure out how to live with Garbanzo. And all of these things are welcomed with open arms. I never said we weren’t crazy.
For me personally, this behavior was modeled for me by my parents. Regardless of our financial and living situation, we were always the “dependable ones” willing to help. My dad, when asked by us kids, would always reply simply with “what goes around, comes around.” I doubt even he knew at the time he was talking about Karma. I do know he was doing exactly what he was raised to do – help people.
Ever since we were first married, we were the ones that helped friends in need. My college friend came and slept on our couch for several months right after she graduated. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She couldn’t go home because of a bad family situation. So, she moved to Oregon and slept on our couch as she tried to get her bearings. Was it stressful? Towards the end it was. She hated being a burden, so she withdrew into herself. Makes it hard to live with someone who isn’t talking to you because she doesn’t want to burden you with her problems. In the end, it was all resolved. She went on to become a fire fighter, of all things, and she still thanks us for the time on our couch where it gave her the ability to figure out her next move without stress.
Or there is our friend who needed the occasional meal. We laughed because he thought he was being clever about showing up to “visit” near mealtime, but we always knew what he was looking for – an invite to stay for dinner. We always had extra, so he always had an invite. He had been laid off from his job – was making enough to keep a roof over his head, but always had questions about what he was going to eat next time. In the end, he always gave us something in return. Maybe it was helping with yard work – or volunteering to stay with the girls if we needed to go out. He would bring us gifts he would trade work for as a way of saying thank you.
In many cases, our goal in offering help is to eliminate one worry in someone’s life so that they can focus on the longer term goal. For example, we lived with Garbanzo’s grandpa after his grandma died of cancer. The goal was to give him time. Everyone was pressuring him to make a decision immediately after her death. Garbanzo and I disagreed with their goal to get him to make an immediate decision about where he would live and what he was going to do. I mean, the man’s wife of 52 years just died. Give him some time to grieve. And, that is exactly what we offered him. Time. We knew no one would pressure him if we were living there. He liked the idea, so that’s what we did. In the end, it was the greatest thing we could have given him. If we hadn’t done that, he may not have met his second wife – a wonderful woman who loved and cherished him until his death a few years ago.
Has doing this lead to some pain in the past? Yes. We almost lost a very good friend once. But, the situation really changed the course of his life in a way nothing else had been able to do. About 6 months later, he came back and apologized profusely for what had happened. The relationship is fine now. We had all been friends for too long. And, he clearly grew and changed from the situation. The second time was with regards to our ex-nanny. I should write about that sometime. (I know I have said that a couple of times, but, to be honest, I haven’t known where to start. It is quite the story.) In the end, we learned a lot about our relationship – so all was not lost.
Which leads me to last Friday. I read a friend’s blog and learned of an issue that has suddenly appeared involving his housing. The woman who owns the house (his roommate) has made a very questionable decision. A decision that could leave him in a very unsafe (IMO) situation. He tried talking her out of it, but she is too trusting at this point. Reading the blog post, I knew immediately he needed out of there. So, in the comments, that is exactly what I offered – him a place to live. Then I emailed Garbanzo to let him know I had done it. (Garbanzo agreed!) He is a very good friend. We trust him (hell, we’ve left him with our kids for the weekend once, and will be doing it again soon – clearly we trust him.) He moves in this weekend.
If you pay attention to my blog listing on the left-hand side, his blog is listed there. He writes Thoughts of a Princessa Mexico – aka Mexi. He is moving in with us this upcoming weekend. Everyone is excited. We love Mexi. He is a good guy. We told the girls we were getting them a big brother. They are thrilled. Too bad, they are going to learn fast that Mexi is a teacher too. At dinner Sunday, when Indigo was messing around instead of eating, he used his teacher voice on her. It was hilarious.
We simply do what we would hope someone would do for us if the tables were turned. Give something good to the universe in the hopes the universe is kind in return. Garbanzo would say this is being a good Buddhist. At the very least, we hope we are teaching our kids to be willing to help a friend in need.