Last Friday I got a call from a local businesswoman. She had heard/learned that there were people in town having trouble asking for help from agencies such as the food bank (not because the agencies were unwilling to help but because it was hard to do the asking) and asked if I could write something for the paper to help move them past this reluctance. Here is what I came up with...
My Canadian History professor grew up during the depression. While we were studying that dark period he told us how hard it was for his father and many other men to give in and go to the government for support. There was a shame involved in admitting that they could not support their families on their own. Rightly or wrongly, many people thought it was better to struggle and scrape and remain independent than admit that they needed help.
Similar stories are told whenever and wherever people are struggling. There is something in our culture that leads people to think that they need to always be able to provide for themselves and their families. And for many men this is even more pronounced. Cultural definitions of “manliness” generally don't allow much room for seeking help.
But the reality is that none of us goes through life without help, sometimes a little help and sometimes a lot of help. And here is the best thing. That is how God wants it. God didn't create us to be independent, self-sufficient islands. God's hope for Creation is that we remember that we are all inter-dependent, responsible to and for each other. God wants us both to offer and to accept help at various times in our life.
In the church we spend a lot of time reminding ourselves how important it is to offer help, to love our neighbour and our enemy. And as vitally important as this is we need to break down this idea that we don't need help. Sometimes it is easier to offer help than to accept it. But I'll say it again. God wants us to move past our pride and independence. God wants us to be able to seek assistance when we need it.
In our current time of struggle there are lots of people out ther offering help. There is the Labour Action Centre, Community Counselling, the Food Bank, the churches, and Ontario Works to name a few. Since supporting a neighbour always means doing God's work all of these agencies are signs of God being active here in Atikokan. Turning to one or all of these for the assistance they have to offer is not a sign of weakness. It is merely a recognition that we all need help from time to time.
At my former workplace we had a poster in the office which read “Asking for help is a sign of strength”. We all need the strength both to offer help to our neighbour when we can but also to ask for help when we are in need. May God's blessing rest on all of us in Atikokan, those who struggle and those who are out there to provide assistance.