I was talking with my infusion nurse this week about difficulties starting IVs on people who are “hard sticks” (like me). She told me a story about when she was new working in the ER and not sure if she was going to make it at the job. One night they were short-staffed, and despite the fact she was inexperienced, she had to start an IV on a particularly hard case, an older lady with no veins to speak of. She ended up putting it in the back of her arm, and as she left for the night told other staff she wasn’t sure it was in a vein at all, but it was the best she could do. She felt discouraged that night, wondering if she was cut out for the job. The next shift, however, a doctor told her they had tried a central line and other IVs on that patient with no success. “Your little stick on the back of her arm,” he said, “got her through the night.”

This got me thinking: sometimes when we think we are failing the worst, we can actually do the most good. This requires us however to be willing to be “messy” – to stick our neck out, do the hard thing, maybe even when we are sure we will fail. I am all for caution, but sometimes I am so cautious I do nothing at all – which is worse!

This is especially true with being afraid of saying the wrong thing. When something bad happens or someone is going through a rough time, I tend to sidle past without saying a word, my fear of being ignorant or hurtful making it so much easier to just be quiet. But then I think of times I have been going through trials, and someone has taken the time to say just a few encouraging words, and how very much that meant. Was it their eloquence, their knowing just the “right thing” to say that impressed me? No – in fact I probably wouldn’t even remember their words – it was the fact that it showed how much they cared.

Some of my personal favorite examples of faith in the Bible are from those who probably wouldn’t consider themselves great examples at all. The man who cried, “Lord, I believe – help my unbelief!” You can hear his sense of his own failings, even as he does all he knows to do. Peter with his impulsive and sometimes wrongly-directed passion, but nothing ever done by halves, always going full force and “without a filter”! Desperate, exhausted, humble men and women of the Bible, who even as they knew it wasn’t enough, were brave enough to do what they could, and found grace in the striving.

So instead of being afraid to say the wrong thing at a funeral, maybe we should just say what we can from a good heart – stumbling words are better than silence. We should volunteer for things we won’t be great at – more hands are better than none! Sometimes even just, “I don’t know what to say,” or “What can I do to help?” is enough. Perfection is not required – trying is!

We can always work hard at what we are good at, but also try other things that may not be our speed. Be willing to be messy. Sometimes when we think we are being least successful, we can accomplish the most good!


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