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Can You Ask For Help?

September 11, 2009

Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.  ~Albert Schweitzer

We’ve all been there. Lost. On an open road with a husband who refuses to stop and ask for directions.

Asking for help makes us feel vulnerable. It messes with our pride and derails our rugged individuality. Like two-year-olds, we insist on doing it ourselves. Even if that means staying lost in the desert.

After hearing the buzz about Obama’s speech for students, I decided to listen firsthand.  I watched the speech live with my son’s fourth grade classroom. When the teacher asked the students what they heard the President say, a hand went up. Mario said, “Ask for help! He said he even does it. And he’s the President!”

Relieved Mario hadn’t recited the Communist Manifesto, I listened harder to what the kids had to say. The teacher asked how they might need help. Some said they needed help with homework. Another wanted spelling suggestions. One little girl said she needed help remembering her glasses. “And where can we find help?” Ms. Brendyl asked.  The students responded with the usual: a parent, a teacher, the principal, a friend.

President Obama urged students to find someone who can help them succeed. While many adults shuddered at the thought of President Obama speaking to our nation’s children, I wondered, why? What made people so opposed and so afraid? Are tags like staying in school and working hard terrible values? Is asking for help a socialist ideal?

Then I remember the husbands stranded in the desert. Maybe asking for help frightens people. However, for many of the kids who receive free school meals, or kids with only one parent at home, or others with a language barrier, hearing the President say that it’s okay to ask for help was nothing short of  miraculous.

One of the guiding principles of all major religions is to offer help, and yet somehow people have forgotten what that means. Helping your neighbor means all neighbors. Even the ones we don’t like. Or the ones across the border. And like all values, help must begin with our own selves. In order to succeed, rather than getting lost in the woods, we could take the President’s advice and ask for help. Building community means celebrating our greatest gifts and sharing them with others, while also recognizing our greatest weaknesses and asking for support.

On that note, I’m finding someone to help with the laundry.

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