Thursday, June 03, 2010

How to Respond to a Raw Deal From a Young Sage

I know this post is long, but it is worth it if you or someone you know is diminishing life by being negative, complaining, bitter, etc. Meeting this young sage has been one of the most encouraging things to happen to me this year. I hope you will be encouraged, too! Please note that I sent this to Jamie's mom for complete approval before I posted it.

So here is the “rest of the story” about Jamie, the young, insightful poet I met on vacation in April. You can see that post at:

Jamie’s story and perspective on life is an indictment of anyone who consistently complains about getting a “raw deal.” As I said, Jamie is intelligent, winsome, articulate, engaging, funny, and she embraces and appreciates life. As her mom has told me, “she’s eleven and she gets it.” It is a pity that we can live a lifetime and never “get it.”

This is to encourage anyone who thinks they have gotten a raw deal in life. Truth be told, you may certainly have gotten a raw deal, but the important question is, what are you going to do with your deal? What are your options if you cannot change whatever is in your life that is “raw?”

You could complain about it over and over for years, focusing on the pain of your condition, or what someone did to you, or how God didn’t come through the way you wanted. You can let your circumstances drive you into a bitter, joyless hole of self-pity. Such a reaction, however, is not the only option.

Jamie is eleven, yet has already experienced a raw deal. I met Jamie’s mother and father about 25 years ago. They were a great couple, and we were good friends. We have been on vacation together, and have visited in each other’s homes for the first decade of our friendship. They moved, however, and slowly we drifted apart…not because of any events or problems…we just lost touch.

This past April, I knew I was going to be near them so I decided to “reconnect.” I emailed first, and Jamie’s mom was excited that I would be able to meet Jamie, and to catch up. What shocked me was to find out that during our ten year lapse of communication, Jamie’s dad was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Look it up, it’s horrible. Basically, it causes progressive neurological decay causing problems in motor movement, and also in mental deterioration. In short, this disease turned a very nice guy into someone who has difficulty getting around, and worse, has experienced a decline in his ability to think rationally. He is not a happy person, and can sometimes be inappropriate in what he says.

He lives in an assisted living community, but Jamie’s mom makes sure she sees him weekly (supervised visits.). Jamie has never really known a healthy dad; and I don’t want you to get the impression that she has developed her perspective easily. Her mom is extremely supportive and proactive in helping Jamie learn how to deal with her dad.

Such an approach has helped Jamie to become the amazing commentator on life she is. On the day I met Jamie, she spent some time soaking in the beauty of my vacation cabin’s view, doing what few eleven years old would….she wrote a poem about what she saw.

Mountain Woods
This view is so beautiful
The most peaceful place I’ve been

So crisp and nice

So green and windy

As perfect as a picture

Here and now I just realized

What I would like to do

I would like to freeze this moment

And keep myself right here.

Jamie, Age: 11 - April 17, 2010

I was amazed at her ability to appreciate the beauty of the mountains, but also at her ability to articulate it so well. My amazement would take another leap on the next day when I received an email from her mom. To make a long story short, Jamie and her mom went from the cabin to take Jamie’s dad out to eat. Jamie’s time with her dad that evening stood in stark contrast to the afternoon in the “Mountain Woods.” He was angry, loud, and deteriorated into tears. This upset Jamie as it would most any child. She and her mom went out to talk deciding to let him finish eating before taking him back to his apartment.

The amazing part came on the way home from that experience. This little eleven year old girl would never get to experience her dad as I once did long ago before the disease showed itself. She has gotten a “raw deal” of major proportions. She has ever legitimate reason to question, to be angry, and to give in to her circumstances, but she has chosen a different path. Her mom says she entered the world “hard-wired as an optimist,” but she’s also been taught how to put her dad in a healthier perspective.

How do I know this? Well, on the way home from such a sad time with her dad, she told her mom, and I quote: “I’m so sorry for Dad. I feel bad for him, but I also feel like we are closer because it is just the two of us. I feel like we are the luckiest people in the world to have each other. I feel like God has used this terrible illness to show us what real friends are like, what is really important in life and what capacity we have for love.”

So what would you tell Jamie? Would you tell her to dwell on what’s wrong with her dad (and the world), and to scream out WHY ME? I wouldn’t. I’d tell her, “Jamie, you are totally right, and extraordinary in your ability to say it so well!” In her statement and in her life, Jamie is fleshing out the powerful truth of Philippians 4:8:Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Jamie has no idea how many people I’ve shared her story with, though she and her mom have given me permission to do so. All I know it that when I’m tempted to cry out in anger and resentment, WHY ME LORD,” I’m convicted by the words of a little girl who is asking a better question, HOW CAN I BEST RESPOND TO THESE CIRCUMSTANCES?

Hopefully, in your life, you’ll find the same answers she’s finding, namely, to know what is really important, and exercising and growing in your capacity to love. This is not wishful thinking or foolish optimism; it is another way, a better way (as opposed to self-pity, useless criticism, resentment, or bitterness) to respond to life’s raw deals; I’ve seen it work…in people like Jamie!


Vicki said...

Thank you, Andy (and Jamie).
God is so good and so kind to give us reminders of His grace.

JoAnne said...