It’s the season of giving. As we remember a Savior who left the glory and comfort of heaven to move into our mess, we all feel compelled to celebrate with charity and extra acts of kindness. At no other time of year is a dark and hurting world more receptive to the hope of Jesus that we joyously pour out of ourselves.
Yet, there’s something more behind this perennial philanthropy that eats at me. I’ve been walking this journey of raising a child with complex medical issues for close to 16 years now, and I have to say…
I don’t want to be your project.
I don’t want to be good enough for you to throw your crumbs at, and not be invited for your main course. I don’t want to be pitied or your charity case or your temporary home group donations recipient. I don’t want you to show up at my door with more of your “stuff” that I don’t need. I don’t want you to throw a check at me, feeling inside like you are the kindest Christian to hit the planet since Mother Teresa.
Don’t get me wrong. We are NOT ungrateful. We have appreciated the Thanksgiving baskets doled out when my husband has been either unemployed or under-employed. We have felt the great relief of someone showing up with a meal during or right after a hospitalization. Gift cards, unexpected anonymous dollars, presents for the kids from a local business have all bowled us over with kindness.
I can also tell you, running a non-profit that serves parents raising kids just like mine, charitable giving, volunteerism, and benevolence is critical to the survival of the caregivers we serve.
But when Christmas fades and all that is left is trying to put back the disheveled pieces that the holiday chaos ripped apart, what I really crave is something MUCH deeper.
What I really want is true friendship.
Raising kids like mine with all of their diagnoses, oddities, and myriad appointments leaves a parent like me feeling extremely isolated. The ache of marginalization runs deep. We stopped being invited to neighborhood parties years ago. I guess we make people feel uncomfortable. People get annoyed with our erratic schedules and unfortunate last-minute cancellations.
Yes, I have many dear and treasured friends in both the bleeding disorders community and the world of special needs. I would be lost without them. They know me. They speak my language. They “get” our difficulties and sorrows. Each one is a shining jewel beyond compare.
Nevertheless, it often feels like I am relegated to a lower caste or a leper colony among the typical world.
What I really, truly wish is that others would just love me for me. I wish I would get calls to hang out with the girls. I wish people would, instead of doing a “dump-and-run” with their charitable acts, get to know us and step into our brokenness. I wish that others were invested in us because they see us as worthwhile people, created in the image of God. I wish they would validate my burdens and stop looking down their noses at me.
Christian leader, John Maxwell, has popularized Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That’s what I want – for someone to really care. I sometimes feel like asking the DNRs (dump-and-runners), “Do you really care? Do you only care about me when it’s the holiday season? Or would you be willing to help me fold some laundry, share a cup of coffee with me, and invite me to your dinner party?”
Recently, we had someone who has known us for more than 20 years offer to do something for our family. They live in the same town. We used to spend quite a bit of time together. That stopped when our son was a baby. They’ve never made the time to get to know our children, even though their children are the same age. They have been more than happy to throw charity our way over the years, but there is never a lingering visit, a cup of coffee to chat, or even a friendly phone call. We refused their recent offer. It would have felt extremely awkward to accept what they were offering from people who have largely become strangers to us.
These are the things that rip open gaping wounds, hidden behind our children’s diagnoses. They scream “You are less than,” “I am better than you,” “You are only worthy of life’s scraps,” “I feel sorry for you, but I don’t like you.”
Thankfully, we have Christ wrapped in flesh, who sees us, who sees this behavior, and who knows each of our hearts. He ascribes infinite worth to each of us. When the world tells us we are unloved, He reassures us that we are loved to death. When the world pushes us to the margins of exclusion, He reminds us that we are set apart for holiness and greatness. When the world brings us discouragement, He gives us hope.
What a gift! What a Savior!
I may not get what I really want for Christmas this year. Unfortunately, I think people may always see us as their project, until the kids are out of the house. However, the Lord, who loves the giver and the recipient, may yet soften their hearts to see what they are doing in their well-intended activities. At least I know I am not alone in feeling this way. And I have a God who is bigger than any of this arms-length kindness.