Thursday, May 24, 2012

Asking For Help -- A Newspaper Column

15 years ago I was working at Kids Kottage, the crisis nursery program in Edmonton. Every day we interacted with families in crisis. Every day we talked with parents asking for help. Prominently posted on the wall of our intake office was a poster which read “Asking for help is a sign of strength”.

Another memory. It is my first year of University and I am taking a Canadian History course. My 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 and boys 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.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Countless sermons have been preached and books written and songs sung about what it means to love each other as Jesus loved his friends, on how to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. But surely one of those ways is to be ready to help. One way we love our neighbours (friends or enemies) is by being there to support them when they struggle. But look at the last two words in that Luke quote. We are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

There are many people out there willing and able to offer help, willing and able to work to ease the pains of the world. But we (and we all need a hand at some point in our lives) need to be able to ask for and accept the help if it is to be of any use. If we truly love ourselves we will be able to recognize that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for ourselves is seek the help we need. I am the first to admit that this is hard. 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 Grande Prairie and area there are people who are hurting. There are people who are struggling with various things in life. Some are children, some are teens, some are adults, some are seniors. In Grande Prairie and area are people and agencies willing to offer help, living out God's command to love neighbour. Turning to one of these people or agencies is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is not a failing. It is a sign of strength, it is a sign of loving ourselves as God loves us.

In the end, 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, those who struggle and those who are out there to provide assistance.

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