Working in the pharmacy I encounter all kinds of people, a variety of opinions, and a range of attitudes. There are a few people that truly get my attention with their devotion to their loved ones. Sure, I only see a small part of the picture, but what I see is selfless giving of something so very precious and limited: time. There are people who devote so much to a father, mother, or sibling who is ill or who has lost the capacity to take care of themselves. Some even take care of more than one loved one.
They have to let go of things in their own lives. The have to put a hold on their to-do list to take care of this priority. Some things they release will not be available to them again. What a very unselfish thing to do. Some live in the culture that would have them do it automatically without question. For others it would only be done reluctantly. Others find excuses to pass on the responsibility.
I am in awe of the few who choose to go out of their way for those who are not their family. The man who picks up items and transports more than one needing soul. It takes so much time but it doesn't matter because it needs to be done.
I wish I could be that selfless. Today I was called selfish and my initial reaction (inside) was anger. How can you call a mother selfish? I have given up many things and have to pass even on my own needs once in a while. I feel like I am constantly giving. Not selfish.
But searching my heart I know that the comment angers me simply because it is true. Just because I give more than I ever have does not mean I am not selfish. There are many, many times I could be giving more. But I am too distracted by my narcissistic thoughts. I am too busy concentrating on what I want and as a result I am unable to see what others need.
Being a parent requires sacrifice and compromise. But it also gives opportunity to hide from the give and take of the rest of the world. I don't have to commit to anything in the afternoon because my daughter needs to sleep. I don't have to have conversations with anyone at dinners or church because I am running after a toddler. I don't have to drop my day for someone else's needs because I can't just drop a kid. My easy out.
It's disheartening to think of my true nature even though I have grown. My husband is a very giving man which means I have a very high standard to live up to. I look at all the volunteer we have done and wonder how much I would have done without him. Much less, I am sure. I would have found valid reasons to be unavailable.
They usually are valid reasons. Everyone has their own troubles. Their own commitments. But that is the difference between a truly selfless person and the rest of us. When there is someone in need they don't consider the excuses valid enough. They will get back to their own agenda later.
My agenda isn't even that great. It is full of many more intentions than there are actions. There are things I would love to do that I have to decline. I would love to help some of those dear to me who are struggling financially, but due to my past selfishness I am not in a place to do so. I would love to speak into the lives of those I care about more, but because of my past selfishness I am not in the place to be received. Selfishness takes from everyone. It's curse is long lasting.
But it is never too late to change. It starts with a simple act of kindness. It starts with seeing the distress and lack in others. And when acted upon, the opportunities multiply. Not something a parsimonious or egocentric person would want to happen. But every single day gives us the opportunity to be humanitarian and grow in our capacity to think outside ourselves. We are surrounded by need.