There is one in every family, every group. That one soul that is always there when someone needs something. That person that sacrifices their own needs and comforts for the good of another person. The giver. The one who says “whatever you need, whenever you need it,” and means it. They never take; never seem to need anything for themselves. They never seem to tire from doing for others. They are blessed souls with kind hearts and easy smiles. We have one of those people in our family, most people do.
I, however, am not that person. I help out where I can, but I am more of a selfish soul. I wasn’t born that way, it is a learned trait. Years of growing up in the middle of a large family had taught me to take what I can get and give when it counts. Over the years, I have learned to defend what is mine: my time, my resources, and my sanity. It’s a rough spot to be in for certain as I do feel compassion and I do want to help. However much I want to help, I have come to learn that the taking never stops. Once you start giving, it comes to be expected. Being needy comes to be a habit.
It starts with little things. Borrowing a garbage bag, a yard tool, a power mower, your pickup. It doesn’t stop. People you rarely talk to call you up, “Can we borrow your van? We’re going out-of-town for the weekend and need a dependable vehicle.”
“What? No,” you answer. “We need it to get to work.”
“Can’t you take the pickup? We really need the van.”
“No,” you say again. What is that about? Where did they get the idea that they had some kind of claim to your van? Where they got the idea from was…us. We started with little things, loaning a few dollars here and there. Allowing a relative to use a vehicle to get to a doctor appointment. Loaning out tools and equipment to those down and desperate. The trouble is that small things do not stay small. We have loaned out tools and they have been returned damaged or completely broken, or not returned at all. These people, close friends and relatives, always say “thank you,” they are not completely boorish. However, thank you does not pay the bills.
I had not planned to go out this week. I had other plans that required staying in. Still I had to go drop someone off somewhere three times this week. I had to pick someone up five times this week. I had to take someone to an appointment twice this week. We used to fill my tank once every six weeks, as of late, we are filling it twice a month. We are paying out $50 a month extra for gas. I have pushed aside the things that I had planned to do so that I can help out someone other. What used to be a once-in-a-while situation has turned into everyday occurrence.
I want to complain…loudly. I want to tell these people, I missed my work-out this morning because I had to do something for you that you could have done yourself. I have missed my work-out every day this week because someone asked me to do something for them that they could have done for themselves. I understand it is cold out and walking in the cold is uncomfortable. I understand that people get sick. I understand that people need to visit the dentist, but why make an appointment for a child at a time that they cannot take them? I want to tell them no. But for some odd reason I cannot say the words. I just keep doing and feeling frustrated for the things I wanted to do or needed to do aren’t getting done.
Where should the line be drawn? It was easy to say no to a distant relative who wanted to take our van on a road trip. But it is not so easy when dealing with grandchildren. A mother of five who doesn’t have a license to drive yet. A single parent who is working extra hours to make ends meet. How does one say no to them? I can’t say no to them, any of them. So I keep doing, keep handing out my things, keep loaning money that will never be paid back. I keep doing these things even knowing that the more I do the more they will want. It’s the price of compassion: doing without so that others don’t have to.
- Why I hate compassion (PaceAndKyeli.com)