The caller ID displayed “private”. I tried not to sigh out loud. Only one person I know has a private number.
It was J (not his real name). J is one of those people who only ever calls when he needs a favour. One of those people who never seems to call wanting to buy me a coffee or to ask about my day, just that he needs a favour and the other 4 people he called before he got to me were too busy.
“Hi, J” I tried to be up-beat “how are you?” My theory is that J is lonely but doesn’t know how to just be friends with someone. He’s so used to asking for help that he doesn’t know how to just ring up and have a conversation, he needs to ask for something.
“Well” I hear the panic rise in his voice as he remembers the problem “you see my microwave broke down today, just the most awful luck, I turned it on this morning and black smoke came out the back, it’s just dreadful and I was wondering if you could take me to St. Luke’s to get a new one?”
“Sure” I responded encouragingly. I do try to help him when his requests are reasonable. That means that when he’s being unreasonable, I don’t feel guilty saying “no”.
He txted me a number of times during the day to just check and triple check the time. I was late picking him up as a friend on Facebook started up a conversation just before I left. To be honest I wasn’t too enthused about the whole exercise. I often find myself doing favours for J and he’s the sort who will try to up the ante.
We made our way to the Briscoes. It was a hot day, I parked in the shade while he went to do his purchase. No doubt it would be on special, he likes getting a good deal. I refused to join him in the shop ever since the time he got me to help him buy a bucket chair and I then had to help him argue with the staff as well.
Pleased with himself, J placed the microwave in the back seat.
“You’ll never guess how much that was!” he declared excitedly.
“I have no idea, J, please tell me”. I said in my most patronising tone.
I guess part of me resented having to take up my afternoon helping him in the first place. I am very sensitive to the fact that I am a people pleaser, compliant. I like to make people happy and so if someone asks something of me: a favour, a car ride, a loan, I am only too keen to help. I end up doing a lot of favours for people like J and I always get that sinking feeling that I am being taken advantage of.
We talked about his day, his plans, his health we made comment on the weather and then he started digging into my personal life.
“No, J, I am not talking about that”
It’s one of the boundaries I have put in place. J has a tendency to ask just one more personal question to the point where he starts talking about things even I am uncomfortable talking about. Because of this I’ve just drawn a firm line on personal things. He persisted again and again and so in frustration I just stopped replying. We sat in the car in awkward silence for the rest of the ride back to his apartment.
“Well, have a good afternoon J and enjoy your new microwave” I tried to be cheerful.
“Oh, you will forgive me won’t you, Stephen?”
“Of course, J, already forgotten”
“Will you help carry this up, it’s heavy”
Another boundary. I know that if I ever agree to come up to J’s apartment I will be required to rewire his sound system and teach him how to use his TV remote.
“Oh, ok, well have a good day” with that he walked off, his microwave in his arms.
As I drove away I sighed, watching him carry his microwave back to his apartment in his skinny arms.
“God, please bless J” I prayed quietly to myself. It’s a thing I do. I do it all the time for people I am concerned about and let’s face it, there’s a lot to be concerned about for J.
The answer came pretty much immediately to my mind:
“You were my blessing for him today”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Religious nonsense. Certainly it may be, but even if you’re not a religious person you can’t overlook the fact that at that very moment, it dawned on me that I was quite possibly the very best thing to happen to J the whole day, Maybe even the whole week.
And you know what? I felt ashamed. What a small weak pitiful blessing I must be. I could have been kinder, nicer, more encouraging and friendly.
No matter whether you’re religious or not, at every moment in your life, you have an opportunity to be a blessing to others. You may be the best thing to happen to the next person you meet. Will you make the most of that opportunity? I hope I do.