There is one question I do not know how to answer.
What would you do?
Or its variation:
What do you think I should do?
Don’t get me wrong. I ask these questions myself. Just this afternoon I asked the vet tech what I should do about scheduling Miss Sophie’s spaying. “What would you do?” She didn’t pause for a second. “Well, if she were my puppy…..”
All’s I’m asking. Thank you.
But I’m not so great when the tables are turned.
When someone talks about how her child is doing in school and asks me about homeschooling, I can tell them what I did and why, but when it comes to what I think they should do, I struggle. I don’t know. What has worked for me might not work for them.
When someone asks about how to care for a sick loved one and starts talking about Hospice options, I can share what I know, but no way can I tell them if it is the right choice or not.
If a parent of a high school junior or senior wants to know what I think about his or her daughter going to Wesleyan, I can surefire tell them all that I love about the experience of being a part of the sisterhood there. What do I think they should do–sure, send your daughter there. But the truth of the matter is, I really don’t know what they should do.
When my daughter calls and wants to know how she should handle some drama at school, I can make suggestions, but I don’t really know exactly what she should do. I’m not there, and I’m not her. We are all different.
And then there’s the really hard questions–
like when a friend is thinking about quitting her job and going back to school, but she isn’t sure she can afford to–what do I think she should do?
or someone I love is having relationship problems and is considering making a huge life change, what do I think she should do? Oh my, sweet girl, I have no idea.
I know how difficult this question of “what should I do” is to answer. And still I ask it of others.
Why is that?
What am I asking for when I ask that question? Advice? Wisdom? Or validation for what I already think I should do?
I don’t know. Maybe yes, yes, and yes?
My heart breaks for the friends who have asked me this very question over the past few days. Not so much because I couldn’t answer but because they are in a place where they felt the need to ask.
That place of feeling lost. Of being unsure. Of wobbling on the path they are on. Wondering if another would be any better.
And there’s nothing I can do to help. But listen. And love them as I tell them I just don’t know the answer to their questions. I don’t know what they should do. Most of the time I’m not even sure what I should do. Every fiber of my being wants to wrap them in a hug and, to quote from “Hey Jude” which Paul McCartney wrote for Julian Lennon to comfort him during his parents’ divorce, I just want to “take a sad song and make it better.” Always wanting to make it better. Whatever that would look like.
But I can’t.
And yet I find comfort in these words from an interesting 19th century English clergyman:
Tonight I give thanks that there is something I can do. I can’t fix it, I can’t make it better, I can’t even tell those whom I love what I think they should do. But I can do two little things. I can sit with them in the darkness* and walk alongside them. And I can love them. I can definitely do that. I was taught by one of the best.
We may not have all of the answers or the magic to make things better for each other, but we do not journey alone. And tonight I am the most grateful for that.
*from a quote by Hugh Hollowell, founder of Love Wins Ministry