“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
“I could really use a chat with a chaplain,” she said after glancing at my hospital name badge. She looked so sad and exhausted.
"Then I’m so glad we ran into each other. I would love to meet you in the seating area just outside the door to the left when I’ve finished in here.”
She had caught me between the sink and the stall, on my way to take care of a long overdue biological imperative in the restroom next to the Cardiac ICU. It had been some kind of a morning, and my body had informed me that there would be no attending to another person in need until after I peed.
“I can just talk to you here,” she called from outside the stall door I had just locked.
“I’d love to talk to you in a few moments. Let me finish up and we’ll find the best place to talk comfortably.”
“Huh. I guess you don’t really care.” She left.
I didn't find her waiting in the area I had suggested. I prayed that she found a compassionate listening ear, peace if she was truly distraught, companionship if she was truly lonely, and a reality check if she really felt that entitled.
And then I took a deep breath and prayed again. This time it was for myself, having been humbled to notice that I recognized myself in her.
Reaching out for help is healthy, and I think I'm getting better at it. Sometimes my people can show up fully right then and there and be with me. And sometimes they cannot, even if they really care about me and want to help. The thing is, everyone’s life is complicated even when it’s not in turmoil. Sometimes, even if you love me very much, you’re going to need to pee and it's not going to wait until you attend to my Very Important Issue.
So please take your time and wash your hands. I’ll be waiting right where you suggested, feeling thankful for the excuse to take a quiet break.
May we have the self-awareness to ask for what we need, the good boundaries to offer only what we can reasonably give, and the grace to allow each other space to balance it all with loving care.