“Don’t fix people, love them.”
I tweeted this quote a couple of weeks ago as a reminder to myself, and I immediately got several retweets and favorites. It seemed to resonate with others as well.
I specifically mention it now because it is an important lesson, one that I am still learning in my own story. Personally, I think it is easier to love people when I think I have something that will solve their problems, answer their questions, and/or meet their needs. I want to have something to offer them. However, I am reminded that more times than not, I don’t have every solution or answer. I don’t have unlimited knowledge or resources.
Still, God commanded me to love.
In fact, loving people is more significant than having all the knowledge and resources. As I understand it, treating people with kindness and care is way more important than ridding people of their questions and problems.
This is especially difficult when I really want to resolve the issue though, and I feel like it is my responsibility to do so. If I’m not careful, I’ll overlook my own limits, unwisely doing more than I should. Or I’ll focus insecurely on my own inabilities, insensitively forgetting about the person with the problem. Or worse, I’ll start to disengage from people, selfishly resisting that their problems are connected to my own.
I experience this tension in all kinds of ways. There’s one way in particular that I want to describe with extra sensitivity and care, emphasizing thoughtfully that this is a person, created by God and deserving of kindness and care. Let’s call this person Patrick.
Patrick is a middle-aged, Black man who is poor. He comes to my house, fairly regularly and always unannounced, with a story concluded with a request for money. By simply looking at Patrick, you can immediate tell that he needs more than just money.
His health is not the best; usually his request for money is to purchase food or medicine prescribed by his doctor. It’s unclear where he lives, or if he even has a place to call home, and he always carries a stench that some would certainly find offensive. It’s also unclear if he has a family or anyone who cares for him faithfully. My housemates and I know that he was hit by a car within the last year too, and we never heard of a relative or friend helping him during that time.
Taken together, Patrick has some legitimate needs and problems, more than I could ever fix. Part of me wishes I could do more than offer what I have, be it something tangible or intangible. No matter what, it still seems so small and insufficient.
Even more, part of me, honestly, wants him to go away. I want him to go away and stop making me feel bad. I want him to go away and stop reminding me of these problems that are so much bigger than I am.
And yet, for some reason, we continue to have him as our unexpected company. Though we all want to disengage from him in different ways, something encourages and empowers us to engage him. And so we do.
Being with Patrick has forced me to accept that I am limited, that I can only do so much. And so I do just that; I do what I can. I accept that I can only do so much, and I accept my responsibility to do what I can. I figure, a little bit of good is better than no good at all. Thus, I commit to treating Patrick with kindness and care, doing what I can and letting God do the rest.
Like I said earlier, I am still learning this lesson; it is uncomfortably humbling and sobering, and it can leave me feeling incredibly aggravated that I am inconvenienced and incapable. I just try to remind myself that my primary responsibility is to love, not to fix.
And usually, I feel a little bit better when I know I’m doing a little bit with a lot of love.
Love Love Love,