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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: September 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Give it Up (And Small is the New Big)

I recently read an article about a couple who's marriage was on the rocks, so they started feeding the homeless in their city.  The couple was full of resentment and rage, and believed deeply that it was mostly - if not all - the other person's fault.  They were each convinced that other was beyond hope.  They would make statements, like lots of folks who come to see me for marital therapy do, like "I know I've got my faults but really this is all his/her doing..."  Or  "If s/he would just..."   And sometimes its true.  Sometimes a partner has a real personality disorder.  Sometimes there is just too much resentment, hurt, betrayal to move forward.  The pain and anger are just a brick wall.  But even when this is true, I think there are ways to get relief.

So this couple that I read about, who had not been speaking to each other for a year or so, and had not had sex in as long or longer, started to get active in helping others.  First the wife, in her emotional pain and deep loneliness, decided one day that if she could not fix her own life, and since she was suffering so much, she could at least bring some comfort to someone else.  It would give her a purpose somehow.  So she made some sandwiches and got some bottled water and set out to downtown in her city and handed them out to some folks who looked like they could use them.

She was well received by most, and so decided she'd do it again.  And then again.  And soon she was doing it more and more.  And her husband saw and he was quiet.  But then one day he offered to help her carry some things.  And she somehow decided to let him.  And then somehow, slowly he started to help more and then more.  And somehow, they started to get back far more than they were giving.  They were feeding others, but really, they were being nourished.

I am not going to tell you that all was peachy and the resentment of the past just floated away into nothingness.  Or that they fell in love all over again.  Or that you should give in order to get back, or with the intention that it will pay off.  

Except that it does.  Somehow, the giving shapes you.  It softens the hard edges and smooths over some of the bumps, just enough to ease things somewhat and open new doors.  And I think, too, that small is the new big.  We don't have to go big or go home anymore.  We just have to go.  Just a little.  A smile, a sandwich, holding open a door, yielding someone the right of way with a wave.  Lots of things count.  A little at a time.

I'm not saying its the cure-all.  But it sure does get us out of ourselves for a bit.  And when we are hurt or hurting, giving, being of service can make all the difference.  Quiet.  Powerful.
and worth trying.