aaameYesterday I spent a delightful six hours showing my favorite city, Boston, to a new acquaintance.  Ted was visiting from Canada and we connected through Facebook.  We covered a lot of territory: architectural, historical, topographical sites that escape the notice of regular tour groups.  We ended the day eating pot roast, corn bread and Indian pudding at Durgin Park’s.

This excursion was not unusual for me.  I get into the city weekly just to walk around and enjoy the architecture.  Whenever I’m there I also look for people staring at maps and looking confused.  I go up to them and ask if they need directions and most of the time they are grateful for the information I offer.  I even throw in a short tour if I’m going in their direction.  I especially love the foreign tourists with whom I can practice a bit of French or Italian.  (Interestingly German and Dutch visitors always tell me they do NOT need any help.  What’s up with that?  I guess they teach cartography in their schools!)

My motivation in being an amateur tour guide for the past thirty-five years started in the seminary.  The first weekend of classes I would offer a day touring Boston to new seminarians.  I wanted to meet their felt need to become familiar with new surroundings, the need to feel “at home.”   And for me, I recognized my own need to be needed, to be helpful and to offer something that would give confidence and a sense of caring to another.

Of course any of us can spend our entire day meeting the felt needs of our fellow humans.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta did precisely that.  She did not try to cure the sick, but rather offered the dying a dignified end by providing basic shelter, food and a clean bed to meet their felt need for dignity.  We witness throughout our day opportunities where people meet the felt needs of others and it’s gratifying.

Felt needs are also an avenue to what we call the “real needs” of people.   Mother Teresa used the felt need of hunger or of shelter to meet the real need of the dying for respect and humane treatment.  When we meet felt needs we might very well be doing the same.  We may be making connections deep within the souls of those whom we are helping that bring healing and peace in a way that otherwise would go unheeded.

Who are those around you at home or at work expressing a need that you can meet?  How are you conscious of others’ needs throughout the day?  What are your felt needs that seem to go unheeded?  Is there a way of meeting your need by reaching out to assist another person?


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