When Giving Is Not What You Expected




Has this ever happened to you? It starts with a prayer…

“Ok, God. I’m ready to give! I’m ready to serve my community and my neighbors. So let’s get started! I bet you want me to help that single mom, don’t you? And that older lady with her dogs? And the young couple upstairs with two dogs and a baby on the way? Just let me know when and I’ll get started.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Days, weeks, and months go by. A seemingly unanswered, but intentional prayer is replaced by life’s responsibilities.

Then, something starts to happen.

An interruption. A neighbor in need of life’s little things (the things you take for granted). You don’t mind helping once or twice, but come on… And it happens in the evenings. Right when you get home from work and all you want to do is relax. But, you’re gone all day so what other choice do they have? And they’re unattractive by society’s standards. They’re overweight. Sometimes they smell. And they’re always scratching the eczema on their arms. And on their forehead. They’re always nervous, but always polite. You’re always polite, but not without a moment of frustration before answering the door. Because helping someone is really difficult, isn’t it?

You wrestle with God about it. “This isn’t what I had in mind. I don’t want to do it. I hope it doesn’t happen again tonight. I’m just tired. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Or give someone dish soap. Or give them a ride because they can’t drive. I just want to watch TV.”

After several weeks of this inner battle, something changes and your heart softens. You realize this is exactly what you asked for. There is no reason not to help. We are to “Serve one another in love,” right? Not always when we’re relaxed and ready. But when we’re stressed and tired and in the desert of the workweek. (40 days, 40-hour workweek…coincidence??)

You eventually learn that there’s an “end date” to the interruptions. A move-out date, literally. No more nosey, talkative does-not-have-a-friend-in-the-world neighbor. You start to change your attitude and prepare yourself for the interruptions conversations. You give them more than they ask for. You have real conversation no longer filled with shallow one-worded answers. You learn they have a son because someone took advantage of them and their money. You learn that their son was bullied into leaving school (just like his mom) and now lives with his grandparents. You learn your neighbor has a learning disability, can’t read, but is confident in saying that doesn’t mean they’re stupid like most people think. You meet their grateful parents and their son on moving day. You learn they’re actually human, just like you. You let them borrow the vacuum again for old time’s sake and give them extra cleaning wipes, just in case. You learn their new apartment fell through due to complications from the Government Housing Department. You tell them it’s probably a blessing in disguise.

They ask for your number, but you don’t ask for theirs.

And weeks later, you find yourself wishing you had.


I hope my neighbor is doing well and that she found a safe place to live. She challenged my heart in ways she’ll never know. Thanks, Lisa. Hope to talk to you soon. :)


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