After doing a quick relationship inventory, each member of my family came to see that our guest had the power to grow our capacity to love and help others.
One day many years ago, while I was watching my young daughter Jennifer play softball, a disheveled woman walked across the field, approached the bleachers I was sitting in, and sat down right next to me.
The first thought that entered my mind was, “This is the suburbs! What is this bag lady doing here?”
In the next moment, I felt kind of shocked that I’d even thought that thought…
I was a minister at the time, and believed I was the kind of person that loved and respected all people equally, regardless of their background.
But in that moment, as I sat next to an unkempt, bad-smelling woman who was carrying a smelly garbage bag, I noticed that I felt extremely uncomfortable. My body was stiff, and all I wanted to do was find any excuse to move away.
Thankfully, the better part of me came to the surface, and I struck up a conversation with the woman. I began by asking her how she was doing, and the conversation just continued from there. Soon, the two of us were just chatting away.
She told me her name was Milda, and she had been living with her brother and taking care of his children. But, because her brother’s wife didn’t like her, Milda had been asked to leave their house.
Not having very much money or anywhere else to go, Milda had spent the past few days sleeping on the streets.
Hearing Milda’s story, I felt two conflicting inner voices rise to the surface.
The first voice, the better part of me, was saying I should invite Milda to my home and give her a place to stay while she figured out her next steps.
But the other voice I felt rising up within me was saying I should wish her luck, move away, and just focus on enjoying my daughter’s softball game.
This part of me recoiled at the mere idea of having Milda in my home.
“What would my family think?” it said.
“What if she’s a danger to herself or others?”
But the first voice, the voice of compassion, persisted. And so, when the softball game ended, I asked Milda, “Would you like to come home with me, take a shower, and have something to eat?”
Without a word, Milda picked up her belongings and followed me to my car.
Milda ended up staying with me and my family for six weeks, and what an adventure those six weeks turned out to be!
At first, my family was extremely uncomfortable having Milda in the house.
My husband felt we needed to hide our valuables, and the kids didn’t want to bathe in the tub after she’d used it.
To add to the situation, it turned out that Milda had some minor mental and emotional challenges, and she didn’t know how to take care of herself very well.
Having her in our home was challenging at first.
But I encouraged each member of my family to do a relationship inventory:
What if opening our hearts and our home to Milda had the power to have to teach us something about ourselves and our capacity to love and help others?
As time passed, our guest began to work her way into our hearts. She also eventually agreed to allow us to contact her brother on her behalf.
We gave him a call, and he was happy to know she was alright and being taken care of. He also had some fun news for her: she’d received an invitation to attend her 30-year high school reunion!
Milda decided she wanted to go to her high school reunion…
So, over the next weeks, we helped her prepare for the event, taking her to the store to buy some new clothes, and helping her stretch her comfort zone as far as socializing and having conversations with others.
Then, the day of Milda’s reunion arrived! Off she went, and when she returned from the event, she had a second piece of good news…
A former classmate she’d reconnected with there had offered her a job as a live-in caretaker for her vacation home! And so, Milda now had a job and a place to live, and she was absolutely ecstatic.
A short time later, Milda’s former classmate and new employer picked her up from my home. I hugged Milda and said goodbye to a fellow human being who had become one of my heart’s greatest teachers.
Having Milda in my life and in my home had caused me to stretch and grow, and I was deeply grateful to her.
There’s no shame in having judgments and opinions about others…
The goal is simply to notice your thoughts through a quick mental relationship inventory, and then to give more energy to the thoughts and actions that feel more expansive.
Most of us think on autopilot, allowing whatever thoughts pop into our heads to dictate our interactions with people, the course of our day, and the course of our lives.
However, you do have the power to simply notice your own thoughts! And when you do this, you can then choose the thoughts to give more energy to. Every single one of us has been blessed with that power.
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