By Rev. Rod Richards
So now is the time for me to tell you: we need help!
No, I mean it…all of us. I’m not talking right now about a specific congregation or organization or group of individuals, I’m talking about us—all of us—all of us who are 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.
A common thread that runs across almost all of my experiences with individuals who our congregation has 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 a worthy goal.
Author, lecturer, and researcher, Brene Brown, who studies 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 in need 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 our own congregations and to other congregations, to our own communities and other communities, 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 these four congregations and the very good work we are all doing, both within and beyond our congregational life; 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. The natural rhythm of existence.
So it is and so may it be.