READY: Sometimes crying out for help, sometimes answering

Mary Ready | Ready or Not

I’ve admitted previously that I don’t like to ask for help, and I don’t accept unsolicited offers of help as graciously as I should. I don’t know why, just weird, I guess.

Besides, I’M the one who’s supposed to don the superwoman cape, rushing in to save the day for others. Occasionally, I’ve experienced the results of “no-good-deed-goes-unpunished.”  

I don’t think I’m unique in this egocentric determination to be a helper without ever allowing others to help me in return.

Whether it’s from pride or stubbornness, human nature is to handle our problems ourselves. Now, independence is a good thing, and I’m not knocking it. But sometimes, you just have to holler for help. I’m reminded of a caption on a poster of a frantic cat dangling from a tree branch:  “A prayer to be said when you’re hanging on by a twig; you’re in a mess, and you’re too mad to pray — ‘HELP!’” Like that hapless cat, we may need to call the fire department to bring their net. 

On the subject of seeking help, let me share these two stories:

One Saturday night, a preacher was working late and decided to call his wife from the church. It was about 10 p.m., but she didn’t answer the phone. Letting it ring several times, the pastor was perplexed, but went on working. About an hour later, he called again, and she answered right away. When he asked why she didn’t answer earlier, she insisted the phone never rang. They brushed it off as a minor oddity and thought no more about it.

The following Monday, the pastor received a call at the church office. The caller asked why he got a call from this number on Saturday evening. The puzzled pastor told the caller he had no idea what he was talking about. Then the man said, “My phone rang and rang, but I didn’t answer.” Remembering his Saturday night call, the pastor realized he must have dialed the man by mistake and apologized for disturbing him.

The man responded, “That’s O.K. Let me tell you my story. You see I was planning to commit suicide on Saturday night, but before I did, I cried out, ‘God, if You’re there, and You don’t want me to do this, give me a sign.’ That’s when my phone began to ring. I looked at the caller ID, and it said, ‘Almighty God.’ I was afraid to answer. 

The pastor explained the caller ID showed that way because of the church name: Almighty God Covenant Church, and the screen displayed only the first two words.

Now, I don’t favor bargaining with God or expecting signs, but since the man got counseling, fellowship, and HELP from the pastor and the church as a result of a misinterpreted caller ID, I can’t criticize the way it worked out. 

Then there was the man washing his car in his driveway when a scraggly looking “bum” approached him. His first thought was he was about to be hit up for money. Thinking sometimes you feel like helping the down and out and sometimes you don’t, he decided that this was one of those days when he didn’t want to be bothered. Refusing to make eye contact, he waited for the intruder to ask for something. Then the “bum” spoke, “That’s a right nice car.” The man said, “Thanks” and continued soaping the hood and struggling with a tangled water hose. The awkward silence went on for a few moments, and at last, the man grudgingly obeyed his inner voice: “Do you need any help?” The stranger simply replied, “Don’t we all?”

Until those three simple words, the fellow had been feeling pretty high and mighty, successful and important. And then a street person hit his heart with a question like a 12 gauge shot gun.  

“Don’t we all?” 

Picking up the snarled water hose, the stranger began to untangle it from under a motorcycle also parked in the driveway. Then he rinsed off the soapy car and declared, “It looked like you could use some help.”

No matter how little we have, no matter how much we have, we all need help from someone sometime. And it’s not about giving money to a homeless fellow begging on the street; it may just be the giving of a compliment or a smile. When we practice some random act of kindness, it comes back as help given us by a friend, a stranger, or even a scraggly looking bum — even if we didn’t ask for it.

Maybe God summoned up an angel, dressed him like a derelict, and said, “Go minister to that man washing his car; he needs help.”

Don’t we all?

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.