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The Neighbor's Garage

I remember  well the strange childhood phenomenon of 'the neighbor's garage'...  

Like most kids, we had our weekly chores.  Clean your room, put your toys back where they belong and the like.  And then, a few times a year there was the dreaded cleaning of the garage. We would drag our feet, moan and groan and act completely overwhelmed.  But still, it had to be done.  Ugh!  We made it a miserable affair every time!    But a very strange thing happened when we were asked to help clean the neighbor's garage.  We suddenly brightened!  We were eager beavers full of energy!  It didn't matter how dusty and grungy things were. We were all in!    As the years went by, it never failed.  We just couldn't bring ourselves to feel any differently.          I never understood it...                                                                                                       That was all a very long time ago...decades, in fact.  I am beginning to understand now.   I see the very same dynamic popping up again and again in my adult life.      My house needs cleaning.  I am loathe to get out the vacuum and duster, etc.,         but my neighbor needs help after a hospital stay or after the birth of a child and I look forward to going to her home and whizzing through all the chores.  The 'to do list' is quickly accomplished!  Why is that, I wonder?   Is it the feeling of attention or self-aggrandizement?  Possibly.  But these are small matters...        

Where it becomes a bit more troubling is when it comes to helping others with their problems.  We all do it.  I had my first big run-in with this in a psychology class.         I found myself surrounded by some of the sickest people I had ever encountered.      It wasn't long before I realized that they would not be attending to their own healing and mental well-being, but they would gladly take the reins of other people's lives to show them what to do!  The blind leading the blind...the ditch lies ahead.             Doing it for a handsome salary and power-tripping made it even worse!  More than once, I have overheard these practitioners say they would hang onto a patient until their yacht was paid off and the like.  The counselors can give you endless advice, but their own advice is failing them at home, more often than not.                                     The neighbor's garage...

You see it in churches. Pastors exhort their flocks while their own houses are in disarray.  Gluttony, sex scandals, ostentatious living, etc.  In recent years, I have asked  a few young seminary students what drew them to the ministry. Their answers were dismaying.  'Easy money!'  "You only have to work 1 day a week!"  "I get 10% of everyone's salary PLUS offerings!"  They don't know how to manage their own lives, but they will happily take authority over yours.   No thank you!

Closer to home, in marriages and friendships we somehow think we are supposed to fix the other person.  It is commonplace thinking.  We are convinced that is how it works.   Everybody help everybody, right?  Wrong, actually.                                  Alright, it's OK to help a child to a point, but that child must learn to take the reins of their own lives or there will be problems.                                                                   'Fixing' is an inside job and that's all there is to it.     Give information, point the way, but that's all.  You cannot do it for another.          

"You cannot change a person any more than you can breathe for him. Personal change is personal responsibility." Vernon Howard.

So there it is... I would rather help change you than change myself.  The neighbor's garage.  It is always more juicy to get in your business than to get into mine. So much easier to talk it all out than to make an effort, to impose some self discipline, to say no to myself.  

Cleaning my own garage from now on...