Help!

Three weeks ago I started yoga classes. I quickly remembered the terminology from years ago, but the moves…not so much. Muscle memory seems to be struggling at the moment. Surrounded by blankets, blocks, and straps, twice a week I find myself working to move as the lithe instructors do. I am not lithe.

Two weeks ago we took a 15 hour drive to Augusta, Georgia. We went to visit dear friends, have Thanksgiving, and attend a wedding. We remembered our old hometown well enough, and our friends were welcoming and gracious. The trip was fine until we were returning home and got north of St. Louis and the blizzard took hold. We slid off the road. A good Samaritan stopped by. He couldn’t tow us out, but his buddy is a cop, so the cop came by. The cop couldn’t help us, but he had a buddy who had a tow shop. Three hours later, we were towed out and in a hotel.

One week ago, I got far behind in my work schedule. I was turning up late and unprepared for meetings. I fell behind on emails and lost track of an entire project. A colleague jumped in to save me during a meeting. Another understanding colleague gave me an out on that project.

Too often we take on things we think we can do. “I can do this!” “I’m a strong independent person.” “I don’t want to bother anybody.” “I’m all alone on this one.” These thoughts and multitudes of others populate our brains – calling us to struggle and suffer alone.

Well, I’m calling bullshit. Let’s end this year and start the new one with the idea that it’s totally fine to use the yoga blocks and do a modified plank. There’s no shame in getting a tow – in fact, it may be the only way out. We probably do have colleagues committed to the work and mutual success; let’s find them and team up.

You do not have to be alone. Whatever it is that you need – there are individuals, groups, and whole societies that stand ready to support you. If you don’t know who or where those are, reach out or call out or scream out. Create a group. We are here. No matter how awful things seem, we are here. The commune is everyone’s to call upon. So, as you enjoy the holiday season and begin the new year, please remember: you are not alone. From auto accidents to yoga and everything in between: call for and use help when you need it.

To paraphrase the movie “Love Actually”: If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that help actually is all around.

 

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Esse Quam Videri: It’s No Joke

“To be rather than to seem”

Here’s the thing: it’s easy to say stuff. It’s harder to follow through. It’s easy to say you believe certain things; it’s harder to live them. These are a couple of uncomfortable facts of being human.

Everyone has the middle of the night moments, and sometimes those in need will call you. She might call you because she fell off a distressed personladder and broke her heel. He might reach out to you because he is stranded and sick in a foreign land and needs to get home. She might email you because her child’s counselor refuses to file for accommodations on the ACT, and you know how to make that happen. He might text you when he needs Wednesday afternoon motivation to get through the essays and readings associated with a tough college schedule. Law enforcement might contact you because she’s in the hospital, and your number was the last one dialed in her cell.

If you are being and not seeming, you will show up. Help. Put out. Support. Hang out. Pray. Talk. Cry. You will be there. A friend recently suggested to me that planning for negative contingencies is a way of living in fear. This same friend has also suggested that being generous with someone who isn’t also generous is stupid. I say: being as ready as one can for any contingencies is being steadfast. I say: being generous is a way of loving others whether or not they return the favor.  Being able to offer to be there and then actually being there is esse quam videri.

Shift Gears:

I had a spirited internet discourse several months ago with a person I consider a friend. She is a well-traveled, well-read, educated Christian woman. She opposed any immigration from the Middle East to our country. Remember the few minutes when almost every governor was saying, “We won’t allow immigrants in MY state”? Yeah. She supported that.

red letter bibleI asked her if Jesus wouldn’t embrace those different from himself (thinking: tax collectors, prostitutes); she said not if they were threatening. I said immigrants are not threatening. She said they were. I asked her about Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” She said it didn’t apply if you needed to protect your children. I wondered if Matthew 25:45 applied, “‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'” No go. She wasn’t having it. None of it. If Jesus’ stranger-angels couldn’t convince her, I wasn’t going to get there either.

Not only did this make me sad; I was confused. If we claim to believe something, we really should follow-through. Fully. In religion. In personal manifestos. In neighborliness. If we say we believe something, are we not supposed to act on those beliefs? You know, the whole walk the walk thing? If we offer to be there for a neighbor, shouldn’t we be there when they call?

Adding it All Up:

I know it’s hard. Even in little things – maybe especially in the little things. Being prepared and being willing to help those in need has been something that I have tried to do with consistency over the past ten or more years. I am imperfect in this: sometimes everything works great, but other times I follow through only begrudgingly, complaining the whole time. Other times, I fall short – way short. The deal is: I have received such kindnesses in big and small ways, and I don’t know what the future holds; so, I am going to keep trying.

 gallbladderI remember the time when I had emergency gallbladder surgery as a result of a horrible gallstone attack (something I didn’t know I even had) while I was chaperoning a school trip. Let me say that again: I was hospitalized four hours from home for surgery while chaperoning a school tripThe number of people who leant cars, drank energy drinks, stayed with me in the hospital, cared for my children, and brought meals to my home after this event was enormous. And that’s just one example. (That’s me in the bed and my friend who kept me and my son laughing despite the pain and misery and fear.)

You see, it really doesn’t matter  if the person in need is your own child, a former student, or a colleague. We all need help, love, and support in this life. From a TGIF text to sitting at the hospital to making a meal to staying for the whole visitation. It is not living in fear or being weak to be prepared to live our values. We should be doing the right things for people. The right thing to do is not the same for everyone, but the right thing to do is: esse quam videri.

Join me.