Monday, August 04, 2008


I don't often write about serious subjects. Mostly this blog is here to help me remember the silly things my children do or just to serve as a journal of things that go on in our lives. But this last week was emotionally draining for me, and I feel that it's important enough to share.

An acquaintance from church is going through a divorce. Not just a divorce, but leaving a marriage that has been crumbling for years, trying to keep her children safe and their spirits intact. This woman's entire family is active in church, looked upon as being one of the pillars of the church. And yet, no one knew that their marriage was in shambles and had been for years.

This woman -- let's call her Lady -- called my friend Brenda not long ago to tell her the story and ask for help. The help she needs is truly bigger than one person can handle, and Brenda asked Lady if she recruit me to help as well. Brenda and I went to Lady's house last week to begin, and in beginning Lady needed to tell her story. We just stood and listened because it was what she needed. Several times in the telling, she said, "I can't believe that no one noticed that anything was wrong. Someone should have noticed." And she's absolutely right.

Skeeter and I were friendly with Lady and her husband, although neither of us could truly say that we were "friends." Personally, I was a little intimidated by her. We did notice that Lady had stopped attending church regularly. Others even commented on it to us, mentioning that it might have had something to do with illness. We now know that it didn't. Skeeter and I both feel terrible about it because we could have done something to help so much sooner, if we had only looked closer or taken a more-than-superficial moment with her.

Just this week my friend Julie wrote an excellent post on this very subject, which in itself is interesting, as I didn't know she was reading the book she referenced, and she had no idea about Lady. While Lady's troubles may be more severe than some others, obviously, her situation is not uncommon. These feelings of isolation are probably more widespread than I ever realized, and I believe that to be true with or without the context of the church.

People want to know that they can call someone at 2 am for help and have an understanding voice on the line.

People want to be asked how they're doing and have the person actually care what the response is.

People want to be invited into someone's home because they are wanted and welcomed there, not because it's an obligation.

We as a society need to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones to show love and caring to others. But at the same time, a person who needs that help must be willing to let down the barriers and ask for it, and that is not an easy task.

As difficult and draining as the last week has been, it has given me a new perspective on the church, on interpersonal relationships, on the responsibility we have to each other.

I feel as if I was given a pop quiz and failed dismally. I will be making a more concerted effort to never be found so lacking again.



Alkelda the Gleeful said...

After many of the facts become known, it's relatively easy (though that's not even the right word) to look back and say, "I should have known...." While it's going on, though, it can be hard. I've caught a number of weird vibes and warning signs over the years, only to have people say, "They're nothing." And they weren't "nothing." As you point out, we need to be more attentive to people, but those people also need to be more forthcoming if we are going to be of any help to them.

I'm addressing this to myself, too, of course.;)

PEZmama said...

I have no good words. I am just so sorry about Lady and her family.

You are such a sweet friend. We could probably debate forever about whether you should have known. But what matters is that you know now, and that you are committed to helping Lady through this time.

Don Mills Diva said...

Don't be so hard on yourself - some people aren't ready to be helped. Now she's reached out and you're there and that is a wonderful thing...

::::wifemothermaniac:::: said...

A thought provoking post, I think it's good to be reminded to step out of our own selves and preoccupation with our own lives to notice others more.

Vanessa said...

This really makes me think. First I want to say, don't be so hard on yourself. Everyone's perception is their reality. Her perception was from the middle of the situation, thus that was her reality. It was obvious to her, but that doesn't mean it was obvious to everyone else. If she was openly asking for help, as in, "hey, I've really got a bad situation here and need some help, can we talk sometime soon" and no one paid attention, then that's different. From your description, that doesn't seem to be the case. I suspect because of the position in the church, they were working hard at putting on the appearance of everything being fine and ordinary. The point is, she asked for help now, if you can help her out, but certainly don't feel like you are at fault for not having stepped in sooner.