Let’s Be Sue

We recently had the joy of visiting my mother-in-law in her memory care unit.  Alzheimer’s is, undoubtedly, an incidious thief, and yet I find myself fascinated by what remains, what essences sticks around stubbornly because it is so much a part of that person.  For our mom, it’s both her sassy sense of humor, her well known eye roll, and her girlish giggle.

We joined her with her friends in a small common area.  The banter back and forth was fun to listen to, going nowhere in particular but showing how connected these women are to one another in some sense of commonality and community.  It was clear one of the ringleaders in the group was slender, curly haired lady named Sue.  She seemed to have no trouble orchestrating the nonsensical conversations in a way that kept everyone engaged while she remained in control (it did not surprise me to discover she was a retired teacher😊).

Sue juggled her audience through inclusion and tips for good living.  She told me how I could smuggle food out under my shirt, how she used to hide groceries in her bra, milk the cows before breakfast and they won’t be so mad, and that we must all pay attention.  I was charmed and mesmerized as she did her thing.

And then, as sudden as the flap of a butterfly’s wing, she stood up and began shuffling down the hall to her room. 

Sue stopped suddenly, turned around, wagged her finger at us, and left her parting words:

“Here’s what you need to know.  If you know anyone who needs help, now’s the time.”

And with that, she turned and shuffled the remainder of the way down the hall.

The banter and intermittent napping continued in the common room, but I couldn’t shake both Sue’s words, and the clarity and intensity with which she shared them.

If you know or love someone with Alzheimer’s, you may recognize that in the earlier to middle stages, there is a lucidity that can flash across their face, and for the twinkling of a second they are fully grounded in the moment. They may not fully process where they are or who they’re with, but what they know is that, for a few seconds, they know.

What Sue clearly knew that day was this:

If you know anyone who needs help, now’s the time.

Over and over, like towels in a dryer, those words tumbled in my head.

If you know anyone who needs help, now’s the time.

No, not tomorrow.

No, not when our schedule lightens up.

No, I’m sorry, not when you feel like it.

Now.  Period.

Sue says NOW’S the time. 

And Sue strikes me as a woman who saw a lot of need in her day, and spent a lot of her time and obvious leadership ability helping meet those needs while rousing others to do the same.

It doesn’t take 30 seconds to bring to mind several people in my life who currently need help.  It takes less than another 30 seconds to recognize those in my community who need help.  It’s everywhere.

Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious, such as needing items after a fire, or a ride when a car is in the shop.

Perhaps more often needs are private, often attempted to be hidden from others.  The stress of caring for an ailing parent, trying to bravely survive a rotted marriage, praying for a wayward child. These needs may not require money or items. What’s vital in the moment may be a hug, a long talk, someone to simply hold space and time for their hurt.

So here is Sue’s challenge to us.  When we see the need, and let’s be honest, we see them daily as they envelope our lives, the time to help isn’t when we’re ready or available, it’s the moment we recognize it.

Crisis, ongoing hurts and hardships, sudden disasters, they do not respect the calendar.  They are not scheduled conveniently, rather they blast their cannon ball of chaos right into the center of our lives.  Likewise, when the wrecking ball swings, our attempts at help cannot be schedule either. 

Seeing a need, recognizing someone who needs help, is a call to action.  I don’t believe our hearts and minds are drawn in to someone’s pain only for us to keep walking. 

While I am certainly not suggesting that we martyr ourselves and live solely at the service of others, I will challenge myself personally to recognize that the need to help is greater than my need to be comfortable or well-rested.

Seeing a need is a privilege, an honor, a calling.  Let’s be honest, not everyone is looking or caring.  But you are.   So if you’ve been blessed with a heart that sees and cares,  you will also be strengthened with the tools to help. 

Now. 

It may be inconvenient.  It may not be how you planned to spend your day.  You may not even particularly care for the person who’s need you see. 

But I know wise words when I hear them, and I clearly heard them from Sue: 

If you know anyone who needs help, now’s the time.

Who do you know?  What do you see?  What can you do?  When can you help?

Our wise friend Sue says now.

Let’s be Sue. 

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