Some journeys call for a special kind of hero.
One doesn’t just walk into Mordor … without a pair of brave and compassionate hobbits, anyway. Going to Oz calls for some Kansas common sense. And if you’re going where no man has gone before, it helps to have some Enterprising people along.
But all those pale before the adventure that starts with one simple question:
“Missy, where did the stuff I just had on the table go?”
And so begins the Plunge Into Missy’s Purse.
If you’re a long-time reader here, you may already be shuddering. For the newcomers: Missy, our developmentally-disabled ward, goes nowhere without her purse. (Trust me, it would be easier to separate Indiana Jones from his whip.) Like a Joseph Campbell hero, it has had a thousand faces over the years, ranging from a tiny satchel to an oversized beach bag.
But a few things remain constant. They’re almost always red. They usually have a working shoulder strap (for a while). And they attract everything nearby like a miniature black hole.
So when something I’d left out for a visitor abruptly vanished between one moment and the next – well, it didn’t take Lieutenant Columbo, right? Especially since Missy the Everlastingly Curious had already been interrupted while trying to send it to Purseland earlier.
“Honey, can I have that for a second?”
And so began a quest worthy of Don Quixote … or at least Oscar the Grouch. Patient exploration unveiled:
- Two stuffed animals (among the few things to ever escape the Purse Event Horizon for brief periods)
- Cards from at least three different games
- The cover of a Random House book – just the cover, mind you.
- Papers and programs from a dozen different activities.
- A pocketbook and two plastic bags filled to bursting with random items of their own.
- The Ark of the Covenant, a lost Shakespeare play, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
You get the idea. Just about anything and everything was there for the finding it seemed … except the thing we were looking for. But there didn’t seem to be anywhere else for it to go, at least not in this corner of the space-time continuum.
“Scotty?” my wife Heather asked. “What about my purse?”
Bingo. Prevented from using her own Satchel of Many Things, Missy had decided to be helpful and leave it for Heather. Without telling anyone, of course. (Maybe we should have called the Lieutenant after all.)
I had to chuckle. Every quest, of course, has to include a valuable lesson. And this was one that I’d seen in the larger world more than once – namely, that “help” sometimes isn’t.
So many of us are quick to help a person or a problem and that’s wonderful. But sometimes we’re too quick – we don’t stop to think about what the situation actually needs. At best, that can mean a lot of wasted effort, like the folks who self-mobilize at a disaster against instructions. At worst, it can even be actively harmful.
It helps to start with what I didn’t do … examine assumptions. By asking, listening and thinking ahead, we can be the help that’s welcomed instead of one more distraction.
It sounds simple. It is simple. And if more of us keep it in mind, it can make any task a lot easier.
In fact, you might even say it’s in the bag.