An Authentic, Sometimes Gritty, and Always Hopeful Blog for All Who Live with Severe Physical Pain

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

“What can I do (as sick as I depressed as I busy as I incompetent, incapable and in general as messed I am) to help others? ”

It's a question I get now and then from people who struggle

I have a wonderful answer!  It won’t cost you anything; 
requires little time; and you can do it anywhere. 
Best of all:  No matter your limitations, anyone can do it!

Of course, you have to read my story first. As many things in life, 
it’s the journey, not simply the destination that counts...
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One morning last week, I arrived early to a coffee shop where I was meeting a friend. Too much in need of coffee to wait for her, (sad, but true)  I paid for mine, and scoped out a a quiet table.  Sitting down, me being who I am, I naturally, spilled some on my jacket. Following this, I had to laugh when I saw that the table I had chosen was missing its napkin holder. I decided to beg one off of someone at another table. So, I walked over to a man sitting nearby, leaned over to explain my situation, and asked for a napkin; then, I waited for his reply. 

He didn’t answer right off. He was too surprised.  Not the “I-didn’t-see-you” kind of surprise; rather, something entirely different. 

Not the same man--this is Rasmus Behncke Henrik
 Silvius, a man with muscular dystrophy who is
part of the 
fashion world in Denmark, but with
a likely similar disorder.
The fellow was surprised I had spoken to him at all, because people don’t normally engage willingly with folks like him--those with awkward and rather embarrassing physical challenges.  Everyone in the tiny coffee shop most likely had already noticed his awkward, jerking movements, and seen his strange-looking walking apparatus sitting alongside his chair.  That odd thing alone was like having a flashing neon sign that read, “Do not cross”

Side Note:  It’s a shame we’re so uncomfortable with such folks, but I’m not criticizing anyone.  We’ve been segregated from one another so that “we-the-non-awkwardly- physically- challenged” have no idea what we should or can do. Sure, a small percentage of people just don’t care--which still leaves a huge percentage who are well-intended but have no idea how to respond. 

The man’s surprise changed into a welcoming smile. “Sure,” he answered, “Take as many as you want.”  The words didn’t come as easy as I just typed them, though.  Instead, I listened with all my might, as with great energy, he worked against his muscles which refused to be still, forcing out words that sounded rather like this: “Shh-oarh...tah-ayyeik  ahhs  muh-hany  ay-uhhs  yooh  wha-ahnt.”  

“Thanks,” I grinned back. “ In that case, I’ll have three!”  Still looking directly into his face, I saw how pleased (relieved maybe?) he was that I understood him.  

I returned to my table, which was right behind his. Just as I sat down, he turned to me with effort and said,  “Whood yooh lah-ak tooh joh-hoin me?” (Would you like to join me?)

“Well, I’m waiting for someone...but I can sit down with you until she arrives,” I answered, and moved to pull up a chair beside him. 

We had barely begun to talk, before my friend arrived.  I was sorry we didn’t have more time together, and when I looked at him, I realized something I hadn’t put together before: that the smaller facial muscles which respond unconsciously to emotions appear to work normally in folks with disorders like his. I wondered if he had no control over these either, because he might not have wanted his disappointment to be exposed in such rawness. 

Inasmuch as I wanted to continue talking with him, my friend was important too. I said good-bye, telling him I hoped our paths would cross again. 

It was just a small thing...a few minutes of my day. When I walked away from him, though, I knew God had allowed me be what this fellow needed for the moment. I’ve no idea why, but I knew it was right.  A small thing for me...but a very big thing for him.  

Now that illness prevents me from participating in structured kinds of community or church-centered helping/social programs, I feel grateful whenever I can participate in one of these in-the-moment opportunities.  There are two very important truths at work here (according to me)
~ Truth Number 1 - People everywhere need help. Not just people with recognizable struggles. Completely abled appearing people...even the beautiful, powerful, talented, capable, and wealthy around us. You can see it in their eyes, their postures, their tones, and their anxious words. If you stop to think about it for just a moment, you know you do.

~ Truth Number 2 - 99% of people appear more physically relaxed, smile, and seem to stand a bit taller when they are given a bit of  help, are encouraged, or simply extended a kind word in a moment of need. 

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My Three Easy No-Fail Steps to Guide You: 

1 - Slow down just a little. BP (Before Pain) I always wanted to give myself more room between activities/appointments, etc. Now, I have to do so because there is a direct correlation between level of pain and my level of busyness, energy expenditure, or stress.

(This balance issue is at work for everyone. Maybe your issue isn’t physical pain--maybe it’s another illness or disorder; or maybe it’s heart-ache, anxiety, depression, or overwork.  The correlation still fits.)

2 - SEE with your eyes and with your heart. You don’t have to look very far to see someone who could use your help. 

3 - Then, DO whatever little you can do Don’t over think it. I’ve only been rebuffed two times in my life, and even then it wasn’t harshly.  Do be sure to do whatever you do with a heart for getting nothing in return, and consider telling no one about it.  Finally, keep doing things for others until it becomes a natural thing for you.  

 Bright Idea!  The holidays are just around the corner, when our thoughts lead us to want to help others in a more purposeful way.  Maybe this can be your way to begin--letting your littles make a huge difference in the lives of others!  

Until next time, 
Blessing and Peace,


p.s.  Pray for me to learn to write shorter postings!  Try as I might when I start out writing one, I can’t seem to do so!  I hope you’ll hang with me until that time comes!


  1. NO I WON'T PRAY FOR YOU... to write shorter posts!!!! What you are writing is perfect and I smile as I read this, cause I know you so well, I can just see you reaching out in love to this physically broken man. Who, as you correctly put it, most of the rest of us would be afraid to reach out to. Thank you Judi for making me smile this morning and for ALWAYS reaching out. Too many times I get just sit back and watch as you wander over to strangers and start up a conversation. Maybe one of these days, I will join you!!!! (Maybe you should pray for me to not write such a long comment!!!! LOL Luv, "Meg", aka SUSIE ;-)

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, my wonderful "Meg" Susie! Yes, one day I'll get you over to a stranger or two! As a matter of fact, you are already beginning to do that!

  2. Thank you for your post, I stumbled across this while navigating online for various topics. I was affected by your blog, so this morning I plan to make an effort to slow down in my busy day to give eye contact, smile, more, help and learn more from the world. Sometime I can be overwhelmed by awkwardness, then regret when I don't react more to the needs I see in others. Bless you, I'm glad I stumbled across your blog!


    1. I'm glad you did too, Crystal! I'm proud of you… let me know how it goes! You may feel awkward at first, but I'll bet you'll feel so good once you do it!

  3. This post hit home for me Judi~~~as I find myself on that "other" side--one day I was vital, active in our home, active in our church and everything started falling apart. Thank The Lord my marriage was hanging on--because my body began reeling from non-stop Chronic Pain--the result of my falling from a tree and injuring my body in ways that are still showing up. Surgery, illness, life-threatening infections, and Pain~~~one wicked cycle after the other. Nothing about me feels NORMAL anymore and I am now the woman with a Cane--who bobbles her way up the church isle and I notice the looks!! I tried hard to ignore them--suddenly I noticed people pulling away and thats when the deepest emotional hurt arrived.. It quickly turned to anger and gradually I knew--God had given me a choice to make, stay at Anger or move on and look past those who now saw me as a very "Different" person than who I had once been. I moved on~~it has Not been easy~~the emotional ache is there, but I am choosing to look for the good moments of life--realizing its okay for the moments to be small and easy. Now I find myself reaching out to others~~it amazes me as to how easy it is. A smile, handshake, kind words~~can take us a LONG way during the darkest moments. Thank you Judi--a fantastic post that hits home in many ways. God bless you. martha

  4. I've emailed you a reply to this already…but I wanted the community here to know how much you minister to me with your authenticity, your perseverance, your commitment to the Lord, and your encouragement to me. Though we've never met face-to-face, you are very, very dear to me, my friend. Much, much love to you!

    1. Judi~~~~
      As I read your LOVING words, my hand went across my heart--because I felt your words deep within and the warmth inside rose!! You touch me with your words--because they are truly filled with LOVE. How do we manage to "reach out" and help each other with words? I believe it is the LORD--giving us a gentle nudge to look beyond our own Pain , extending ourselves to HELP one another!! Its stunning to see how Far a kind gesture can help~~~I too have been in a major struggle with Pain--recently I made a mistake by sitting outside on a concrete porch ledge and it sent my Damaged Sciatic Nerve into pain that has reduced me to sitting on pillows--nothing is helping! Its so easy to get angry about this--but I can sense how the Anger simply makes things worse! Guess I must do some "self- loving" too! Just know my dear Judi that loving you comes SO EASY!!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me so much LOVE. We are here for each other~~~~thats how it should be with the rest of the world.... all my love to you also and I ask The Lord to "Please lift my friend Judi Up from this valley of Pain--let her find relief, even if it be short! Please Lord--help her...." thank you Lord. i love you. martha

    2. Always, you are amazingly encouraging to me. Love you, friend!