Rev. Rod Richards
Giving Thanks Together / Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Good afternoon, everyone! I am Rod Richards, I am the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County and a member of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association.

And I am here to tell you: we need help! No, I mean it…all of us. I’m not talking right now about a specific organization or group of individuals, I’m talking about usall of us—all of us in here and all of us out there. We need help.

But we—many of us—we don’t wish to acknowledge this, do we? For ourselves. We’re not so good at asking for help, and we are taught to resist the very notion that we should ever need help.

We have a Minister’s Discretionary Fund at the congregation that I am honored to serve, provided through congregational donations, that allows me to provide modest one-time assistance to people facing some sort of financial crisis or emergency. The common thread that runs across almost all of my experiences with individuals who we have helped is a declaration that goes something like this: “I never wanted to have to ask for help like this.” “I don’t like having to ask for help.” “I wish I didn’t have to ask for help from you.” And even, “I’m not the kind of person that usually asks for help like this.”

And, listen, on one level, I completely understand this. Asking for help puts us in a very vulnerable place. Everyone—all of us—would like to be responsible for ourselves and our lives, to be provided the resources and opportunity that would allow us, through our own efforts, to provide for ourselves.

But this is what bothers me: that we, as a culture, have made asking for help a shameful thing. That this feeling is so deeply ingrained in most all of us that we can say things like: “I’m not the kind of person that asks for help,” as if that is the ultimate goal.

TED Talks personality Brene Brown, who holds the Huffington Endowed Chair as a research professor at the University of Houston studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame, says this: “When you think less of yourself for needing help—whether you’re conscious of it or not—when you offer help to someone, you think less of them, too. [If you] judge yourself for needing help, [you will also] judge others for needing your help.”

You see? We have made giving help praiseworthy and asking for help shameful.

The people who come to us are beautifully generous, and they offer to pay the fund back when they get on their feet, or to work around the congregation, (anything we need done?), and I say, “When you have the opportunity, pay it forward. Help someone else. Because the truth is, we all need help.”

You have heard it said that it is better to give than to receive, but I say to you they are both necessary, natural, sacred. Exhaling is not better than inhaling, they are both part of breathing, both vital to sustaining life, both part of a natural rhythm to which we all move. We are not isolated beings but connected in mystery and miracle to the universe, to this community, and to each other.

There are not people who need help and people who don’t. There are only people. And we, the people, by our very nature, need help. All of us. Different kinds of help at different times…but we all need help. And we need not be ashamed of that, and I know that we don’t wish to shame others, and I know we all want to give from the deepest wells of generosity in our beings to three worthy organizations today: 40 Prado, Restorative Partners, and the Women’s Shelter of San Luis Obispo, all doing their part in being there to provide help—we want to give from the deepest wells of generosity in our being, not so that we can feel superior to someone else by our giving, but in recognition of that which connects us all. We need help. We offer help. We need help. We offer help.

I leave you with these words from George E. Odell
(Singing the Living Tradition #468, “We Need One Another”):

We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted.

We need one another when we are in trouble and afraid.

We need one another when we are in despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again.

We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone

We need one another in the hour of success, when we look for someone to share our triumphs.

We need one another in the hour of defeat, when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again.

We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey.

All of our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.

So it is and so may it be. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

© 2017 Rod Richards