When you give a gift, do you wait for someone to come and ask you for it or do you take it to her?
I met Pat 7 weeks after her husband had passed away. I was invited to a dinner in my mountain town by a friend who wanted to connect three new people. We each took a moment to tell our “story,” but it was hard for Pat to tell hers; she hadn’t had much time to think about Pat without Ed.
Pat relayed how wonderful people had been during the 10 days Ed was in the hospital, and for those 7 weeks after his death. So many people had said, “please know that we are here if you need us.”
I’ve heard myself say that 1000 times. It’s genuine. I would be there in an instant if called. But the call doesn’t come, because we don’t know how to ask. It’s tough enough to admit we need help when we can’t accomplish something alone, but it is so much tougher to cry out for help when it’s personal – when we are lonely or hurting or need someone to listen or just be present with us. I couldn’t sleep that night knowing how many times I had offered to be there for someone and left that offer just hanging in the air. I didn’t follow up.
When you offer someone the gift of you, don’t wait for them to ask you to deliver it.
I saw Pat three days later at a yoga class – a chance meeting since it was my first yoga class at the community center, and by my standards, a late start at 8am. I was ready to race back to the office as soon as class ended. Instead, I checked in with Pat, and as we walked out the door together, I asked if she wanted to grab coffee. She did. And the next hour and a half was the highlight of my week. I got to know this intelligent, beautiful, passionate, giving person. I got to know Pat as Pat, without her larger-than-life Ed.
Pat and I cemented a relationship that day, and I count her as one of my closest friends on the mountain. I learned a valuable lesson: take action when someone is in need. It is not enough to give them a well-intentioned “call me if you need anything at all.” It is only a gift if you arrive on the doorstep or pick up the phone and insist you can help.
Last week, I read a quote from Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View, A&M University.
“Never assume that you can predict what experience will teach you the most about what you value or about what life should be. You have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you are about to learn the most important lesson of your life.”
I learned to seize an opportunity to take action, and the result was a deep, rich new relationship.
I hope you take action when “Pat” needs you in your future. Show up for her, and give the gift of you. You may receive a richer gift in return.