The Gift of Being Needed

grandbabyMy sweet baby granddaughter Alice occupies most of my time these days. I’m serving as her nanny, and loving every minute of it. Her smiles melt my heart. Her cries melt my heart. In fact, all her funny faces and little noises are dear to me. I’m extraordinarily happy, and it’s not just because Alice is small and cute and happens to be my grandbaby. It’s also the joy of being needed. I wake up every morning knowing I have an important job to do. My daily efforts matter tremendously to our little baby girl and to her parents. During the hours I’m alone with her, I am her whole world.

Babies are inconvenient. I can count on Alice to suddenly need attention at the precise moment I’m sitting down to enjoy my lunch. Ditto, when I’m dialing an important phone call. Some days she can’t seem to get comfortable unless I hold her against my shoulder, walking the floor until my arms ache. During one of these sessions, pacing back and forth with my empty stomach rumbling, I happened to wonder, why am I enjoying this so much? Why is this different from all those times when I’ve resented being inconvenienced by the needs of others? Is it just because Alice is my grandchild?

I don’t think so. There’s more to it. I’ve had similar moments of satisfaction when caring for other people’s children, or when I do a favor for a neighbor and she says, “You made my day.” I enjoy being useful.

On the other hand, there are times when being needed is an exasperating experience. What’s the difference? Partly, it’s a matter of appreciation. I lose enthusiasm when someone takes my services for granted. But even then, I can be at peace if I believe my efforts are making a positive difference. The real killer is when someone seems to want my help, but artfully avoids reaping any benefit from my efforts. Some people have a knack for sucking up time and energy while deflecting the changes that might improve their circumstances. Such people perhaps believe that “neediness” is their only selling point. They sense that if they “get better,” their helpers will go away.

Caring for a baby has reminded me how deeply we human beings crave attention from one another. Little Alice works hard to ensure that my attention is fixed on her. A full tummy and a clean diaper are not enough. She wants my voice, my arms, my smiles. In short, she wants to feel my love. Nothing can match the look of contentment on her face when I hold her close and let my grandmotherly feelings pour forth. And nothing matches the delight I feel when she gives me one of her adoring smiles. We both love knowing that we matter to someone.

What does this teach me about those people who annoy me by contriving needs in order to get attention? Perhaps if I put on my “grandmother-colored glasses” I can see that their real and deepest need is for someone to value them, care about them, listen to them. Instead of driving myself crazy trying to fix all their problems, I should give them my undivided attention, even if only briefly. Instead of putting quick-fix “bandaids” on their suffering to protect myself from seeing their pain, I should open my eyes and ears, ask questions, listen to their thoughts, and perhaps have the humility to admit that I can’t solve anything for them, since I have plenty of problems of my own. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll return the favor, ask me about my troubles, offer a bit of advice, or promise to pray for me. Both of us will be strengthened by honest human contact that says, “You matter to me.”


  1. Jan Stumpf says:

    So glad to hear you have the gift of time to spend with your granddaughter. There’s not much more rewarding then the unconditional love of a baby, especially it that baby is your grandchild! That’s why I love my job working with babies so much. I hope to someday meet sweet Alice. Give her a smooch from me <3

    • Yes Jan, babies are so trusting and sweet. I’m privileged to have so much time with Alice. Will deliver smooches!

  2. Very nice 🙂
    I bet you’re an awesome Grandma!