“Hey Miss P, how are you going? I haven’t seen you for some time.”
“Ugh, I have not been feeling well haven’t been able to get to the gym. I have not been at work for a week and just been in bed all this time. I had to leave my flat because my flatmate did not want to get sick so have been at home and my Mom has been a pest. My car also needs new disc brakes and I don’t have any money and…”
I must admit, I blanked out. As my eyes glazed over, the first thing that popped into my mind was “should have known better”. It’s not that I am not sympathetic, it was just that this was Miss P to a tee and this was the only answer I was every going to get to that question.
The fixation with the “me” and what is happening to me and how or why it is so unfair is making us inadequate and frankly, boring. Yes, most people have empathy or sympathy but everyone has challenges and everyone has to deal with these challenges. You really are not breaking new ground here.
But we have become so inept at dealing with these challenges. We feel the world owes us something. We feel entitled. We feel because we tried, we should now receive. But that is a completely different blog topic that I can’t wait to write about.
What I really wanted to say then to Miss P were John F. Kennedy’s famous words delivered at his presidential inauguration in 1961 – “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
“Miss P, I get it. But answer me this – what was the last thing you did for someone else? When was the last time you helped someone in need? How have you been a contribution to your friends, your family, your community? Do you know how to say the words “you” or “we”?”
If only I had said that. Instead, I just stood there, with half-a-smile and said, “Oh, well. Am sure it will get better” Opportunity lost but somehow I think it would all have been lost in translation.
Now these questions will not help your illness, get you to the gym or work quicker, make the transition back home easier, or make your car brakes cheaper. But they will help you gain some context, some perspective and hopefully, some control.
“Ask not what your [fill in the blank] can do for you. Ask what you can do for your [fill in the blank].” Trust me, life will be better!