I’ve often heard the saying that everyone you meet has something to teach you. The universe, in all its swirling, whirling wonder, places people in our lives on purpose to teach us lessons about love, empathy, patience, and understanding. If we live with this mindset, we can feel alive and connected all the time. Every interaction carries the possibility of growth and meaning; no relationship is a waste of time.
Remember when your Aunt Mildred said, “Oh, that person was a Godsend!” Perhaps when someone is a Godsend, that person really has been sent by God. Sent to teach us a little nugget about ourselves, to nudge us onto a different path, or to confirm that we are indeed on the right path.
Think about the people in your life and why they have been placed in your life, even the annoying people who drive you nutty. I once had a colleague who hated my guts. I could never for the life of me figure out why, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t fix it. I finally concluded she was sent to teach me that not everyone has to like me. My worth is not tied to how she feels about me. Hallelujah!
When we encounter difficult people, our natural response is to react from a place of fear and doubt. What if we pushed pause on the fear monster and instead asked, “Why has this person been placed in my life? What can he/she teach me?” This conscious shift (though not an easy one!) could profoundly impact our day-to-day lives.
As an immigration attorney working at a busy non-profit, I encounter people every day that give me an opportunity to learn and reflect about myself. Many of my clients live in extreme poverty and come from countries where poverty, government corruption, and violence are a way of life. And yet, here they are, living in a shabby trailer in a crime-ridden part of town, happy and thankful as can be. I have met countless homeless people and victims of horrific crimes who tell me how blessed they are because of family and God and the sheer possibility of what tomorrow may bring.
And yes, I have many clients that annoy the crap out of me too. They need me too incessantly, they have an attitude, they call me and leave me 12 messages a day. I learn from them too. They teach me patience and remind me to go on vacation occasionally. They teach me to breathe and to at least try to come from a place of grace.
Perhaps people are brought into our lives at just the right moment to teach us a lesson we need at that time. Maybe there are no coincidences, and the ebb and flow of people in our lives is a carefully choreographed dance to teach us about life and love. Maybe we can let go, trust that God has our best interests at heart, and be fully invested in our interactions and relationships.
When I think of the ebb and flow of special people in our lives, my thoughts fall on our sweet babysitter, Jules. She has been caring for our two kids for more than 3 years and has become an indelible part of our family. Next week will mark her last week with us, as our littlest heads off to full-time kindergarten. Over the years, she singlehandedly brushed away my working-mom guilt as she took our kids on daily adventures, lovingly braided our daughter’s hair, and gently handled our son’s ever-present drama. She came sweetly into our lives and taught us lessons of love, budget-savvy creativity, big-hearted generosity, and ever-steady faith.
My heart is breaking as we say good-bye to her, but I have faith that she was brought into our lives at just the right time and now our relationship will take a new turn, just as it is intended to. Because that is the natural course of things, the ebb and flow of people in and out of our days and weeks and years, making up the tapestry that is our lives. Some people stop in just for a moment, others for a season, still others evolve along with us for a lifetime. Somehow, we have outgrown our Jules; now she will move on, and her nurturing spirit will bless another young family.
The people that weave delicately in and out of our lives are truly our teachers. Our children; our spouses; the grocery store cashier; that friendly, whistling delivery guy; our neighbors; the people who care for us and our children–there are sweet spirits, funny gurus, and inspired teachers all around us. Life is our classroom. All we have to do is pull up a chair, wake up, and open our eyes to the Godsends all around us.