A sign in the window of a shop. A piece of cardboard held by a pan-handler. The look on a friend’s face. The story of a family’s struggle. A patient’s call to the doctor. An addiction. An unhealthy relationship. Disruptive behaviors. A single utterance.
So many ways it can show. So many things it can mean. It can seem as if the human condition is the constant ebb and flow of help –asking for it and giving it being the natural order of things. And when the natural ebb or flow is blocked, dammed up, the inevitable result is pain.
If being debilitated by Lyme disease taught me anything, it was the art of asking for help. And receiving the answer given. I recently got to share that this process is one of learning grace. It takes humility and grace to ask for help. It is a humiliating thing to do. For some of us, that’s darn near an impossible task. For some, it’s too complicated to try to ask for help, or to receive it. (How do you help someone who wants help, but can’t seem to reconcile what they need with the way life is for them?) For some, it’s too hard to hear anything other than a fully committed “yes! I’ll do exactly what you’re asking”. For others, all they’ve ever gotten is “I can help this (tiny bit) much; that’s all.” Or simply “no” and so they’ve stopped asking. It takes a lot of grace to absorb the responses to “Help.” And grace is not always easy to learn.
It seems quite clear to me, from my experience having (and needing!) a Care Team, and from encountering many people over the last few days from whom I gleaned insight:
1. That having someone step in to request help on your behalf, and field the responses, is perhaps the biggest help of all.
2. Whoever attempts to help has got to learn from you exactly what it is you really need, starting with the basic need for human dignity. (Hence asking what help you desire, before even attempting to meet any perceived needs)
Jesus, no surprise I guess, being perfect and all, masterfully did this. He heard cries like “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And went up to the crier and asked “What do you want me to do for you?” (See Luke 18:35-42, for example). I have so much to learn.
And then there is the issue of how to help someone who can’t answer the question of “what do you want me to do for you?” -which will mean further creative searching on the part of the help-advocate, to find out what is needed by investigating those signs which are harder to read, such as the look on a face, or the behaviors being exhibited, or even researching the symptoms and situations causing the problems.
It may be true that good help is hard to find. But I truly believe that if you ask, you will receive; seek and you will find (Luke 11:9). And that the thing that stops us from asking is pride, and the thing that stops us from helping is fear. And the thing that overcomes both, restoring the natural flow of giving and receiving is real, nitty-gritty, down-in-the-dirt-with-you, honest, selfless, supernatural (and therefore limitless), discerning, disciplined, cultivated, committed love.