Sunday, August 07, 2011

Staying open

Ed once told me that his late grandmother taught him an valuable lesson and she didn't even realize it.  He observed that when she was younger, she held her faith and beliefs in her fists, tightly grasped with no way for them to be altered or released in any way.  As she got older, he noticed that she had opened her hands, figuratively speaking, becoming willing to accept new ideas, new ways of thinking, and surprises that life had to offer.

We have been told over and over the great truth that it is better to give.  But what we fail to realize is the importance of being able to receive as well.  Some folks find receiving demeaning and beneath them, because in their mind, it is humiliating to be needy in any way.  Ed used to work for a food bank, and ran across several volunteers who were eager to give but balked at receiving.  I was once a member of a church in Memphis (white) that wanted to pair up with a black church of the same denomination for social interaction and mutual enrichment.  Our church leaders brought forth the name of a black church that was equal to our church in finances and membership, but some people in our congregation were unhappy with that pairing.  They didn't want an equal church to be partnered with; they wanted a poor church, and it was obvious that it was not because of a desire to help as it was a desire to be placed in the the superior side of the relationship.  Sometimes it is hard to give and easy to receive; as surprising as it may seem, at other times, it is easy to give and hard to receive.  Anyone who has ever been addicted or financially devastated or depressed or in other ways has exhausted all resources realizes it is so hard to admit, "I could use some help."  It is so much more satisfying to be on the other end - the one who benevolently looks down and smiles, bestowing riches and blessings and feeling all warm and snuggly about it.

Yet, with a closed fist, we can't receive.  With a closed mind, we can't be open to all life has to offer.

I have mentioned before that, as a medical transcriptionist, I was privileged to be in a beta testing last year for some exceptional software called Instant Text.  The version was beyond expectation, and I use it every day for wonderful productivity and accuracy.  Even after the finished product had been put on the market, the company continued to make improvements and offer new powerful features.  Each one I would eagerly embrace and use in various ways.  Then along came one called a Pick List.  I won't go into detail here, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what good it was for.  I assumed other MTs might need it, but I certainly didn't.  I was doing fine without Pick List; I was productive before Pick List ever came along, and I would undoubtedly be fine without it.

What I soon learned astounded me.  After I asked for examples and some clarification of how Pick List would help me, it became an essential in my daily work and now I use it hundreds of times a day!  I thought I knew it all, but I had to open my mind to allow myself to receive - the new feature itself as well as help from other users and suggestions from the software developer.  Now I can't imagine transcribing without Pick List.

Not everyone is like Ed's grandmother.  As we age, a lot of us become rigid in our ideas and refuse to accept even the possibility that we aren't as smart or clever or omniscient as we imagine ourselves to be.  We think we know everything, can't possibly learn anything else, can't possibly need help from anyone, and have put a big fat period at the end of our philosophy of life.  We stay closed to serendipity.  We stay shut to possibilities and we remain locked to ever changing anything.  I get so frustrated with Americans describing politicians who change their minds as "wishy-washy" or "flip-flopping."  Sometimes it is true that elected officials will just change positions with every opinion poll that comes along.  But others may grow, evolve, examine their beliefs and mindsets, and actually change their position on issues because they understand it a different way today than they did yesterday.  It is not an evil thing to change one's mind, as long as one fully admits to doing so and doesn't try to pretend otherwise.

But oh, it can be so hard to be open!  An open hand is so much more vulnerable than a clenched fist, the latter which can make a pretty good weapon.  An open hand is ready to receive - blessings, ideas, assistance, forgiveness, love, and all other good things that we may not even realize we're missing until we see and feel them in our lives.  Sometimes the most surprising exclamation to find yourself saying is, "Wow!  I didn't even know I needed that - but I did!"  The possibilities are around every corner.  Just keep your eyes peeled, and your hands open.  You never know what could fall into them at any moment.

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