Wow! What a lively discussion there is on the message board of my “Lady Codependency, a Good Samaritan?” post.
Thanks, especially to reader Jeri who wrote:
I don’t think this lady [me, in case you missed it] is a codependent; she just doesn’t know and hasn’t been creative enough to think of what to do with all her blessings, that’s all. I read an old Chinese proverb that said: “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart”…..and I’d like to add: “Whatsoever you DO, DO with all your heart”
I have been thinking about that (I’m a natural ruminator) ever since you wrote that, Jeri. And you’re right.
For the longest time I have equated Christian service to assisting the poorest of the poor. Right now I don’t have time to volunteer at a soup kitchen, so I have this nagging guilt that I’m not doing my part. When I get hit up for change, then, even if I smell alcohol on the guy, or if I know that the woman didn’t just run out of gas–that she pulled the same scam on a friend two days prior–I still fork out the money because, again, I feel guilty that I’m not serving soup during my afternoons.
After reading your thought, I reminded myself of my trip to Calcutta, India, and what it taught me.
I embarked on this adventure to test out if I did, in fact, want to become a missionary like Mother Teresa (and also to visit an Indian man I’d met). As far back as my memory goes, I’ve wanted to be a saint, and I figured that traveling to third world countries and feeding the poor was the quickest route to beatification.
But when my big blond self (in comparison to Indian women) landed at the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart) Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, I wanted to bolt immediately. I was so overwhelmed as I observed volunteer doctors and nurses clean up flesh wounds–completely exposed and blood oozing everywhere–of persons with cancers, infections, and injuries. Hungry kids grabbed soup and bread out of my hands faster than I could feed them. I couldn’t take it, all the suffering. And I ran back to the home where I was staying.
There lived a gentle and kind Indian woman who listened with great interest to my stories about my family, my courses at school, my priest-missionary friend, whom we both knew.
Somewhere in describing myself I mentioned my struggle with depression, and how difficult recovery can be at times.
Tears formed in her eyes.
She began to nod.
“I, too, have those struggles,” she said.
And she hugged me and embraced me in a way that I’ll never forget: I was the first person she’d met who suffered from depression as well, or the first person who admitted it and was willing to talk about it with her. She was so relieved to know that someone else had to work so bloody (similar but different to the blood I saw the day before) hard at her thoughts so that they didn’t completely disable her, and that another devout Catholic woman couldn’t find complete refuge in prayer, as many hours as she sat in front of the altar, begging God to take it.
This woman and I, 14 years later, still keep in touch. She helped me see that depression isn’t just an American disease. It afflicts persons on every continent. And although my Indian friend had plenty of clothes in her closet and food in her refrigerator, she still suffered. Immensely.
That was the first exchange that led me to believe that my calling might not be with the poorest of the poor, that perhaps I could provide comfort to the wealthy (or at least working class) in this country and others who agonize in a different way. I began to appreciate what Mother Teresa said when she wrote: “I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody [to no one].”
In the last two months, as Beyond Blue attracts more and more readers, several people have said to me, “This is your calling.” And I do believe that it is. But I’m still fighting the voice inside that says, “If it’s not service to the poor, then it doesn’t count. Start with hungry mouths.”
So I’d scan the church bulletin to find out about stocking can goods at one of the warehouses of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I’d stress out about how I could squeeze in organizing a clothing drive to my already packed schedule.
But two weeks ago I made a decision to take all that time–the minutes and hours that I waste in trying to figure out how to volunteer at church and at the soup kitchen and direct all kinds of community service–toward my mission of educating people on depression and other mood disorders and e-mailing as many of my readers as I can to let them know that they aren’t alone.
And I feel better. Less guilty. Charged by this vocation.
Just as I was pondering all this–where to invest my time–I walked in (20 minutes late of course) to Mass, and the Gospel was about Martha and Mary:
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
And I knew that God was telling me, once more, to be Mary, the person who loves to write Beyond Blue. To be creative in how to use my blessings, as reader Jeri so eloquently put it.