I’m at the nail salon getting a pedicure. The customer in the seat next to me has been on her phone for a while, clearly being a sympathetic ear for the person on the other end.
“You need to eat,” I hear her say. “Do you want me to stop by with some food?”
During her conversation, she glances my way with raised eyebrows and a little smile, as if to say both “Sorry” and “Save me.”
She finishes her call and lets out a gentle sigh as her head drops. I turn and smile once more.
“I’ve never known an addict,” she says. “I don’t know how to help her.”
At first, I’m a bit taken aback by her statement, surprised she’s sharing this with me, a total stranger, but I trust that God, the Universe, Source, our guides, place us right where we need to be.
“Gosh, that must be incredibly difficult,” I say, knowing I’m opening the door for her to share more.
We talk for a bit about her struggles with this acquaintance, and how she has tried to help her by inviting her to church, offering to drive her to a hospital for treatment, and bringing her food.
“I told her I’d stop by today, but I have so much else that I need to do.”
“Well, why not tell her you’re not able to come by after all?” I ask.
“Because when she drinks, she tends to not eat. So I’m thinking if I bring her food, maybe she won’t drink.”
“Do you mind if I share what I just heard you say?”
“Sure,” she says.
“It sounds like you want to bring her food in hopes she’ll stop drinking so you no longer have to worry about how to save her. So you’re hoping by feeding her that it will make your discomfort will go away.”
She pauses for barely a second. “Yup. I think you’re right.”
The very brief pause tells me that that’s her soul speaking, and the soul speaks the truth.
“Can I offer you a different perspective?”
“OK,” she says.
“What if your continued help, rescue, and fire extinguishing is actually acting as a speed bump on her spiritual journey instead of a green light? What if the best way you could help her — and you in the process — is by stepping aside so she can proceed?”
“You mean I could actually help her more by not being there for her?”
“Yup. Imagine her traveling down her path and there you are as an obstacle in the road. Step aside, and she moves along. Stay there and she’ll either keep running into you or take forever trying to figure out how to get around you. Be a green light and step aside. If she wants your help in making a change, then that’s a different story. But it sounds like she’s using your relationship to stay stuck.”
“Yes!” she exclaims. “That’s exactly what she’s doing. Anytime I offer to help her take action to improve her situation, she says no, but she’ll call me all the time to complain.”
I nod and smile. “You’re a speed bump.”
“Not anymore, I’m not.”
With that, she picks up the phone. I hear her say “I’m so sorry, but can’t come by with food today after all. As always, though, if you need a ride to treatment or to the hospital, let me know.”
So which are you for others? A speed bump or a green light? Could your continued support for a family member or friend actually be stalling their spiritual or emotional journey?
Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.