Ways of seeing: Choosing ‘Yes, please, thank you’


I was one of those kids who started saying “I want to do it all by myself” at a very early age. After seven decades of trying to do it myself when things got rough, I got pretty good at turning down help when it was offered.

Then I took a course on practices for living more fully in the Presence of the Divine. It totally shifted my thinking and hopefully soon my actions will follow. Instead of saying “Oh thanks so much for offering to help, but I’m fine” I’m learning to say “Yes, please. Thank you, that would be wonderful.”

As kids we were taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and as a professional caregiver, it always felt that it was important to take care of other people first. Lately, I’m realizing that we can only give if someone is willing to receive. Learning to be a graceful receiver is just as important as giving.

Another part of the course dealt with intercessory prayer. Marcelle Martin, the teacher, noted that some people are hesitant to pray for others, because it can feel as if we are trying to tell the Divine what to do. She pointed out that, in the act of praying, we may feel led to do something that will help the other person.

We recently lived through a prolonged and scary hospital stay. It was so comforting to hear people’s expressions of caring when they would say things like: “I’m holding you in my heart, You are both in our prayers, I’m sending you Light, If there’s anything you need, please let me know.” It’s the kind of thing I often say to those who are having a challenging time. Yet often my engagement ends when I mail the card or hang up the phone.

Now I’m trying to be more conscious of holding the person consistently in my thoughts and prayers at a regular time each day. Recently my friend Wendy gave me a wonderful lesson that I hope will become my regular practice.  Instead of saying “Let me know if there is anything you need.” She said “I remember what it is like sitting at someone’s bedside, afraid to leave. I’m going to be in town at 11:45 and I’d like to bring food to the hospital for you. Would that be OK?” When I practiced saying yes please, thank you, she offered a few choices of food. It was so thoughtful, so specific, so careful of making sure it would be OK and so delicious.

In this season of gift giving, I’m grateful to the lessons about giving, receiving, and being open to the practical outcomes of prayer.

Cheryl Mitchell is president of Treleven, a retreat and learning program located on her family’s sheep farm in Addison County. She does freelance consulting on issues related to children, families, social policy and farm-to-community work. She can be reached at cheryl.w.mitchell@gmail.com.

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