Who is the needy one? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Take a closer look.
The main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.
– Barbara Brown Taylor
Can You Tell Us Apart?
I ask him if I can help. Does he need anything?
He says no, he is helping someone himself.
When you volunteer at Manna House, you don’t dress up. I often can’t tell the “volunteers” from the “needy.” I’m occasionally asked if I need food myself.
I think I know why. I can’t tell us apart because we’re all needy.
Ryan (not his real name) looks like a teenage hippie from the 1960s. Long stringy hair. Tie-dye shirt. Vacant look in his eyes.
Ryan rides in on a bicycle. He parks it in the back of the warehouse because we all know what you leave out front can leave with somebody different. He says little to anyone. He mainly wanders around and does whatever Ms. Fran asks him to do.
He has a hard life. I’m told his mom was in a bad car wreck so Ryan is now the sole caregiver for his disabled mom and whatever siblings are still in the house.
Ryan is needy.
In his case, it’s obvious. So Ms. Fran makes sure he leaves packed down with as much food as he can carry home to meet needs there.
The Less Obviously Needy
Other needy ones aren’t quite as obvious. The man with the clean-cut look and confident stride (clearly “volunteer”) also has needs. You have to talk to him to find that out.
And the lady with the smile on her face and new running shoes on her feet (another sign of “volunteer”) is also needy.
- She needs to break free of self-centeredness,
- needs to stop believing she’s self-sufficient, and
- needs to help other needy.
I know. Because I am that lady.
I am the needy, too.
Get Over Yourself
A unique but valuable spiritual discipline I often need to experience is the practice of encountering others. As Barbara Brown Taylor so bluntly says in her fabulous book, An Altar in the World:
“The assignment is to get over your self.”
Everyone has needs. Some just recognize their neediness more than others do. Maybe they fight it less. Maybe they humble themselves quicker.
- But we all are crippled.
- We all have weaknesses.
- We all have needs.
I’d love to learn more of Ryan’s story one day. He is still guarded; he doesn’t express his needs easily.
Maybe we could teach each other to be more direct about our needs and better accept grace given.
So I’ll be watching closer for him, for an encounter—as one needy person to another.
I ran into Ryan again last Thursday night at Manna House. I asked him how things were going. “Actually, not too good,” he said.
I asked about his mom. She has since passed. And his brother? He’s trying to keep him cleaned up, but the brother isn’t cooperating.
I was proud of Ryan’s honesty and openness. Maybe we are changing. Being vulnerable with our needs is a sign of maturity for all of us.
Let’s keep practicing open encounters.
* * *
Who have you encountered lately that is needy? How aware are you of your own neediness? Please share your thoughts in the comments about the Practice of Encounters.
If you’d like other unique spiritual practices, here is a year’s worth, inspired by Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World:
- The practice of waking up to God
- The practice of paying attention
- The practice of wearing skin
- The practice of walking on the earth
- The practice of getting lost
- The practice of encountering others
- The practice of living with purpose
- The practice of saying no
- The practice of carrying water
- The practice of feeling pain
- The practice of being present to God
- The practice of pronouncing blessings
revised from the archives
- Free Printable for Hebrew/Greek Word Studies – It’s Easier Than You Think
- Great & Small Prayers for Babies – Book Review