Tyler was only 5 years old. As he approached his parent’s bedroom door he heard their angry voices. His dad shouted in frustration, “We just can’t afford it. I didn’t get the bonus I’d hoped for. We don’t have the money to move right now.” Tyler could hear his mom’s voice. She was upset too. She’d been so excited about the move. But everyone was sad now. He hated the awful feeling that was growing in his stomach. Tyler ran into his bedroom, grabbed something and ran back to his parent’s bedroom. He opened the door and said, “I can help you! We can still move into the new house!” He unlocked his fingers and dropped a handful of coins on the bedside table. He declared, “Now you have money. We can buy the house. Everything will be OK.”
What would you do if you were Tyler’s parents? Hopefully most of us would put our arms around him and thank him for his kindness. We’d tell him how much we loved him and how we appreciated his efforts on our behalf.
But what if instead we said, “Tyler, what you did is ridiculous and really doesn’t help at all. What’s wrong with you? If you understood what was really going on, you wouldn’t have done such a stupid thing. You should’ve known better.”
Whether it’s a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, husband, wife, sibling or even a friend, when a person falls short in their efforts to help us, we can be pretty tough on them. But in reality, each of us has only so much to offer. We may have lots of insights in certain areas, but few insights in others. Because of our own family dysfunctions, personal experience, cultural differences, losses, or a number of other circumstances, each of us is limited in various ways. It would be great if knew what to say and do in every circumstance, but we don’t. We stumble and fall and say useless and insensitive things that hurt others at times.
When I heard the speaker make his summation, it almost seemed too simplistic. But as I considered his words, the impact was profound. He said, “We cannot give to someone what we do not have. We can only give to others what we have to give.”
We are all like Tyler in some areas of our lives. We have gaps. We have deficits. We are ignorant. Sometimes people offer what they have and those offerings seem meager. But when we realize that what they gave is all they had, it gives us an opportunity to be less judgmental and far more gracious.
I realize this is not the case in every situation. Sometimes people are intentionally unkind and spiteful. But when it comes to those around us who love us and want to have a relationship with us, what they offer may simply be all they have to give.
Observation: The older I get the more I recognize my own deficits. There are some gaps in my life that I hope I can fill as time goes on. But I also know that I still have my own deficiencies, areas where I can’t give what I was never given.
Reflection: Although people may be more aware of my gaps than I am, I might also be more aware of theirs. I’d like to remember when I’m disappointed with someone close to me that they may be giving me all they have.