Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness Nancy Virden (c)2013
Standing on her doorstep was her new acquaintance, Kay. “May I borrow $20?” she asked.
“Ummm, sure. Just a minute.” Surprised, wary, and rationalizing how much this woman must need the money or why else would she ask, Ellen handed over the cash.
Many months later, the money never having reappeared, benevolent Ellen was with Kay in the same church where they had first met. A second time, she was taken off guard as Kay said, “Over there are some new visitors. Fresh meat.”
Kay wandered off toward her unsuspecting targets. She regaled them, as she had Ellen, with her story. “I’m divorced, need a car, am being evacuated from my home, just trying to feed my kids…”
Awkward replies of sympathy preceded Kay’s inevitable question. “Could I borrow $20?”
Ellen watched in horror. She too had once been “fresh meat.” Since then, she had learned Kay will not seek work because she didn’t like her old job. She wrecked her car driving recklessly. Her children attended private school on a benevolence scholarship, and her evacuation was due to destruction of property, not overdue rent.
Kay had abundant sources of food for her family, and lied her way through every relationship.
Kay returned. “They wouldn’t help me out. Some people just want to keep you down, you know?” She’d forgotten about the money she owed Ellen.
Kay’s chosen trade was begging and blaming. More than once Ellen had been guilt-driven into helping Kay.
Saying “no” can be refusal to accept blame for poor choices someone else has made. Most people get that, and hence persons like Kay need “fresh meat.”
Is there financial need in America? Obviously. Are we responsible for helping those in need? Absolutely. Can we each meet the financial needs of even one other person? Probably not.
Discernment about when and how to become involved in a person’s life grows out of knowledge (facts) and insight (knowing the person, and being aware of our own motives and limitations). Once knowledge and insight are in place, our decisions have foundations other than knee-jerk emotional response.
If we have trouble saying no even while being consumed by too many “yes”es, emotional response is probably not the healthiest route for us to follow. Remember, nothing in this world will fall apart because we take the time to pray and think before deciding to become involved.
Giving $20 to Kay never helped her. It was a misled kindness. We want our contributions to count, so let’s refuse blame for the choices of others, turn aside from false guilt, and select carefully how to make a difference.
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.