I was reminded of the importance of giving and receiving because of Frank – the man in the middle.
Frank graduated in January from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, but his first exposure to The Farm was more than a decade ago when his brother came through the Program and graduated in 1999. During that time, Frank cared for and supported his brother, Mike, through his difficult recovery as well as the transition back into society.
Fast forward a few years and the roles reversed. Frank needed the support from his brother who was now 15 years sober and there to guide him through. Frank graduated the program at the Farm and we got to see two brothers healthy, sober and happy.
Working at The Farm reminds me that I am often unaware how much I am wrapped in this spectrum of giving and receiving. I desire to be the giver in my relationships, but my marriage has taught me I can’t hold too tightly to that role. If I do, I not only deny myself of a crucial aspect of my life, but I deny my wife the opportunity to help, support and care for me in my own times of vulnerability, weakness and struggle. I need to apply this to my work at Harvest Farm too. If I work as though I am invulnerable and without needs, I become less effective and helpful to the men I am trying to serve and more miserable in the serving.
There are those who mostly receive in our society. Perhaps the most egregious are those who have received so much—even from the womb—yet don’t recognize the gifts they have been given in safe families, patient teachers, coaches, employers, and societal advantages. To borrow from David Foster Wallace, they feel justified in living life stuck inside their “skull-sized kingdom.” Their lives are marked by endless and empty consuming. And to be honest, I can fall into this category as well.
It is often those I serve that remind me that I have failed to recognize what I have received.
At some point in our life we all will be receivers as we age, fall sick, or get injured. I believe those moments do not need to be sad or horrible. Rather, if we live life awake to the double blessing of giving—perhaps even without pity but in joy—to those who are broken and in need, and if we allow ourselves to be broken and gratefully accept the kindness and care of others, we truly acknowledge the fullness of our existence. That is what I saw in the image of those two brothers—fullness. A picture of knowing and being known. What a blessing to work in such a place.