All He Needed Was Me, Unconditionally

My greatest transcendence came from being with this little boy. I didn’t realize the significance during the experience, which, now, seems to be why it’s so powerful.

He came to us scared and angry to the point of starving himself, not sleeping, and isolating himself from everyone. Any time I encouraged him to feel better in our classroom, he recoiled. I decided to give up on manipulating him (I use this word to mean constructing situations with intention; in this case, conditioning him to engage with our class). Instead, I served him. He felt safe sitting next to the window so he could watch the cars drive up, so I brought books and toys to him. If he wanted to eat in the window, I brought a small table and chair to him. If he wanted to sleep in the window, I set up pillows and blankets for him. Whatever, it was his. What actually helped him gain trust in me was the ability to have control over himself.

Allowing him self-control in a vulnerable situation is something I have rarely done for others. I’ve always taken the role of adviser (which has proven to be detrimental more than once, especially when my friends felt similarly to this little boy). As the adviser, I expected something in return: their gratitude, praise, acts proving they earned and deserved my help. I first figured this out over a year ago while talking to my best friend about the relationship in my novel; now, I fully accept it as truth: I helped because I cared about their well-being, yes, but I also helped in order to be thanked.

Well, when your self-esteem motivates your investment in someone else’s progress, they can tell — they know they are essentially a tool. I think, when it comes to guiding my kids, I know my advice won’t make a damn bit of difference when they need me. They will never be able to thank me for my help because they won’t remember me. I’ve never seen them as a means to gaining self-confidence; thus, I never took this little boy’s behavior personally, like I was a terrible teacher if I couldn’t get him to be happy. I wasn’t seeking that security from him; instead, I truly wanted to help him because he was upset.

Over three months of feeling in control, he chose to slowly bare himself because he felt safe doing so. And, through being with him, he offered me time to bare myself. He showed me that my fancy sayings and grandeur acts of sacrifice rung empty when compared to my undivided presence. All I needed to do was be me and be with him.

Parents will say they didn’t know unconditional love until they met their newborn baby. I have an understanding of that now. When you truly give all of yourself to someone who cannot give anything back, you are able to hear and see what they want instead of what you want for them  — or what you want for yourself. Through the interaction, you may or may not gain anything for yourself, but if you do, it will be a bonus instead of the goal, making that bonus transgressive. These interactions take courage and vulnerability, and has become the greatest adventure, the most authentic baring of myself or witness to someone else’s baring, I’ve ever known.


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