I sat on the kitchen floor, my leg in pain from a fall and wondered what to do next. My children had heard the crash and had gotten out of bed to see if I was okay. At that moment, my phone beeped, alerting me to an unrelated text from a friend. I started to respond to the question in the text, with my shaking hands, and then chose to be real instead and texted to tell her what had happened. Her quick response was “Do you want us to come over? We’re about to walk the dog.”
I started to say “no.” I didn’t want to inconvenience my friends, a wife and husband with five kids at home. I was also embarrassed at slipping while running to the kitchen to turn off the whistling teakettle! I thought for a minute, and then said, “Yes.” Being a single parent with an injured right leg, I wouldn’t be able to take myself to the hospital, if it came to that.
My friends arrived and got to work on helping me make a decision. I was reluctant to go to the hospital, but the pain and “pop” that I’d heard worried me. I vacillated, and one friend asked what advice I would give to another friend in the same situation. Sigh. “I’d say to go to the hospital and get it checked.” My friends said they’d take me. One walked home to take the dog and get the car and the other stayed with me.
I called my mom to come stay with my kids, and my friends took me to the hospital. I told my mom that I would call her when I was ready to leave the hospital. I expected my friends to drop me off at the emergency room and then be on their way since it was late. Their own kids were home asleep, with their high school son in charge.
At the hospital, I kept telling my friends that I was fine on my own and that they could leave. I was uncomfortable with inconveniencing them. My friends didn’t leave. They stayed with me. They supported me with their love and care and chose to not leave me there alone.
Letting myself be embraced by their love was a stretch for me. I didn’t earn this. I couldn’t pay them back for it. I couldn’t give. I could only receive.
Growing up, I learned that I made my dad happy when I was performing well in school or athletics. Straight A’s, perfect attendance, and winning at sports meant that Dad would tell others about the great things his daughter was doing. Being loved and enjoyed for just being me? That concept is still hard to grasp. I tend to think that I will be loved for what I can do or for how I can be useful.
At the hospital, I couldn’t do anything for my friends. I couldn’t be useful. I couldn’t give.
I realized that they were there for the duration. A small part of me was hoping for a broken leg, so that they would at least feel that they had a valid reason for bringing me! After all, if I ended up without a serious injury, wouldn’t they have wasted their time? Instead, the diagnosis was a sprained knee.
They stayed with me through the whole process, except when I was hauled off for x-rays. We chatted. We laughed. I’m not naming names, but one of us inflated a surgical glove. Despite the lateness of the time, it was good to be together. I relaxed into the embrace of my friends and let them love me. I received.
I recall another time when all I could do was receive. My oldest child had run away. The police could find no traces of where she had gone. They were preparing me for her to be a statistic. Most kids or teens who are missing for more than 48 hours never return. My dear friends and family swooped in to care for me and our family as we waited. I was in a daze. I was surrounded by love and prayers, when I could do nothing. They rejoiced with me when she was found, alive, four days after she disappeared.
I can be loved for just being me. I can be loved without having to earn it. I can be embraced, and I can rest in it.
Angela Leffel is a teacher and single mom with four adopted kids, one of whom is now an adult. She enjoys heart sharing with friends, especially over a cup of coffee. She feels closest to God and most at peace when in a forest. She shares what God is teaching her here.