In the last several days, I’ve seen a lot of lists of what not to say or do when you encounter someone who has.. a child with autism, suffered a loss, some difficult challenge, or…you fill in the blank.
I know I’ve thought of my own list for someone who has multiples. (No, they don’t share a brain!) Mostly, the lists are helpful because they offer some insight into someone else’s perspective. But, to be honest, I have found them to be off-putting of late.
Could I just be reacting to the fact that I’ve said or done some of the things on the lists? Maybe. According to the lists, I have said and done things that have not been received well. I have been ignorant and uncaring. I have really hurt some people without intending to or knowing I did. But I think my unease is more than that.
See, when I think back to the times I’ve violated the lists, it’s when I am trying to reach out and connect with someone.
When I encounter someone who is doing something I’ve never experienced or going through a difficult time, I tend to ask questions. Some of those questions probably sound silly and weird (which may indicate my need to think before I ask), but often it’s a result of my lack of knowledge and my desire to know more. I want to understand as best I can what’s happening. I want to know what the other person is experiencing and feeling. I’m looking for things we have in common. I’m looking for a way to connect. And, often, I’m looking for ways that I might be able to help or encourage. In doing so, I violate the lists.
So I become reluctant to enter in. I hesitate to ask questions. I don’t pursue connection.
But God created us for connection. We need it. We long for it. We wither without it.
So to all of you whom I have asked dumb questions or hurt in some way, I’m sorry. It was not my intention to cause you pain or suffering.
But I can no longer let my fear of violating the lists keep me from trying to connect. I will run the risk of sounding stupid or saying something wrong. Connection is worth it….