“Can I take some of that toilet paper,” my friend said, “or do I need to go buy some?”
That was the request when I walked in our outer office. My friend needed several rolls of toilet paper for a children’s activity. Perfectly appropriate need. A black garbage bag with rolls of toilet paper, paper towel, and napkins was sitting by one of the desks. Perfectly appropriate resource.
But I didn’t know how to answer. The bag of toilet paper that she was looking at was for someone else. But there was no need for her to go buy some. I knew where there was a box with four times as much as she needed. For no cost to her.
All that processing of options took me a few seconds, during which I was silent. I think I appeared baffled. Finally, I said, “You need 8 rolls of toilet paper.”
I knew how to answer that request.
“I’ll be right back.”
I went upstairs. I went to the closet. I filled a bag with toilet paper. I took it to my friend.
Taking it from the bag in the office would have been quicker, but that wasn’t really available. Buying more would have allowed her to act without inconveniencing anyone, but it would have inconvenienced her and it would have cost more than the paper we can get.
I needed to separate the need she had from the solutions she offered. Once the need was clear, the best solution could come.
I suppose this could be a lesson about teamwork and collaboration. But for me it’s a lesson about prayer. Too often I tell God the solution, and wonder why I don’t get my way. When I let him know the need and wait, solutions I never imagined appear.