Monday, June 2, 2008

I learned a valuable lesson this week-end. A hard one too. While my mother-in-law was away for the week-end I went to do some cleaning in her apartment. I didn't ask her if I could, I simply assumed it would be okay and that she would see it as a blessing when she returned. I worked steadily for about two hours on Saturday and even had two granddaughters there to help me with dusting. I did some re-arranging too. I took some pictures home with me so I could put them in an album and left the others nicely rearranged on a book shelf. I've been putting her older pictures into albums for a few weeks now and wanted to add these. I left the apartment feeling good about the 'gift' I had given.

When she arrived home last evening she called. And she wasn't happy. Especially not happy that pictures were missing. I explained they would go into an album as they were older and the newer ones had been left. She still wasn't happy. She said some things that made me question why I had bothered to work so hard in her apartment and I then told her I was sorry and that I wouldn't do it again.

I cried a bit after I got off the phone. My husband was upset that I had been upset by his Mom and he adamantly told me I would never do any cleaning there again and that he would return the pictures himself.

After soul searching and talking to the Father last night I learned this:

I should have asked her permission to go in and clean. Just because we have keys doesn't give us the right to go in and do anything.

I should not have taken pictures regardless of my reasoning and trying to 'help'.

It is her apartment, not mine, and she can do or not do anything she darn well pleases in it.

I was wrong to assume she would appreciate the work I did.

I was wrong to assume anything! I should have asked her permission.

When I'm wrong I need to own up to it and ask forgiveness. Even when it's family. Maybe, especially when it's family.

I woke this morning knowing what I had to do. I had to return the pictures and tell her I was sorry and assure her I would never do that sort of thing again. It was my responsibility to do that, not my husband's. And I did. I called first and then went to her apartment. She told me she appreciated all I did for her but ... she wanted to do all she could for herself for as long as she can. She wanted the pictures left just like they were. She had them in order and wanted them left alone. So be it.

Sometimes what we think may be a 'blessing' to someone else ends up being anything but. She saw my 'help' to be intrusion and trespass and for that I am sorry. It's better to let older folks alone at times, regardless of how much you want to jump in and fix things.

This morning I realized that if God permits, I will clean in that apartment again. Only she won't be there to feel I've intruded. It will be my husband's and my responsibility to one day clean and clear out what was her belongings. Until then, I'll leave it alone until and unless she asks for my help in some way.

Lesson learned. May I remember it.


  1. I'm sorry you were hurt for doing good.
    I have learned that same lesson with my brother Bobby. After Daddy passed our feelings were to go down there and clean and fix everything. Not anymore! I do not want to hurt or offend him in anyway. We do what is asked or we ask first.
    You are alot like me... being the oldest of 8 we feel the need to take care of everyone. I love that you give freely of yourself.
    You were just trying to love your Mother-in-law... I admire that and God knows your heart!
    Love you lots Weezy!!!

  2. Louise,
    What a wonderful blessing to learn this lesson from someone who was so forgiving. You mistake was born out of love and giving and was unintentional. You really meant to be a blessing.

    Thankfully, I was taught this lesson by being in a grief-counselor's class. It was always assumed in my family that when there was a death, that others should swoop in and clean and cook and do all the little things that need to be done so the grieving person wouldn't have to do it. What an eye-opening realization to see that it was taking away the power to do for themselves (and their privacy).

    This post is a good reminder (especially since I've been thinking about my 90-year-old neighbor lately) that giving is a bigger blessing if I know that my gift is what she wants (compared to what I think she might need.) You have received a blessing-lesson, and reminded others (and probably taught others) to consider things they might not have considered before.

    And shown us all what a blessing it is to be a Christian woman who sought the Lord for the answer! For those who don't know Him, then this might've been a continual drama with hard feelings. He spoke to your heart and healed this situation. Amen!

  3. Oh, this is such a tough thing. I can just imagine how disappointing this was for you after you had worked so hard to help her... In fact, I can see myself in that whole little episode and would have been crushed by her response.

    And yet I can see her point, too. My mom used to say, "Jeanette, don't get old. You won't like it." Well, that is one piece of advice I wish I had it in my power to keep! It is so very hard to be graceful about losing the ability to do things for oneself, especially for the person who has done for others all their life or has been very independent.

    Thanks for this lesson for me, Louise! I'm really sorry you had to go through that, but thank you for sharing it. I am going to try to let it shape my approach to others so I can benefit from what you have learned.

  4. Sorry about this. Guess old people want to be left alone.

    I 've had a similar experience , tried to help seniors and they lashed back at me very badly.

  5. I'm sorry for your hurt. it's hard when we try to help and it doesn't work the way we envisioned.

    You are a blessing!!!