Seeing Help In A New Way

The doorbell rang at 8 a.m. today. I was in the middle of roasting squash and making homemade dog treats. When I got the dogs under control, I answered the door apprehensively once I realized it was my next-door neighbor. She was wondering if I could help her jump start her dad’s old truck. She was finally coming to grips with his unexpected passing on Christmas Eve and wanted to part with one of his prized possessions.

Help Is On The Way

I didn’t think twice about helping. I rounded up the dogs and put them in their crates. I shut off the stove and ran upstairs to put on some extra layers of clothing. I hadn’t showered yet, so I was still wearing my pajamas. Grabbing my coat and a pair of gloves, I made my way across the yard to my neighbor’s driveway. She already had her SUV set up in front of the truck. She was reading instructions for a portable jump starter her dad bought right before he died. She asked me if I knew how to operate it. I shrugged my shoulders and asked a few questions but admitted my experience with jump starting cars is limited to one instance that happened so many years ago that I don’t even remember what car I had at the time. I asked her if she had cables, and she wasn’t sure, so I went back to my garage to grab mine.

More Help Isn’t Always The Answer

When I returned, I saw one of my other neighbors getting his newspaper. I asked him if he knew anything about jump starting a vehicle. He was happy to join our little driveway party, but he said he hadn’t done anything like this since the 70s when cars were very different.

Without any hope of getting this task done on our own, we tried YouTube. We Googled the topic. We consulted the owner’s manual for both vehicles. We really had the best intentions to figure out how to do this very simple task. I mentioned my inexperience is really due to my reliance on AAA travel assistance. As self-sufficient as I would love to be, there are some things I don’t want to do.

After several minutes of zero progress, my neighbor conceded to the AAA option. I apologized for not being able to help and so did my other neighbor. We were willing to provide whatever help we could, but it just wasn’t the help she needed at that moment.

Is It Help If It Doesn’t Fix The Problem?

When I resumed my domestic activities after this event, I thought about what it means to help. In fact, I looked up the definition on Google and read the following: “make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering one’s services or resources.” Was I able to jump start her car? No. Did I make it easier for her by offering a service or resource? Yes. I recommended AAA, and before my squash was done baking, a tow truck had her up and running so she could drive to the automotive store and get the battery replaced.

Is It Help If It Fixes The Wrong Problem?

Is this fixation on fixing the problem unique to me? I don’t think so, especially after having a long conversation with someone yesterday about a troubled teenage girl who recently got caught stealing from her employer. The manager of the store told me she knew this girl had a lot of problems associated with being in foster care and hanging out with the wrong crowd. She would buy her food or give her additional shifts to help her. She would even give her rides to and from work to help. She couldn’t fathom why, after all the help, this teenager would hurt her so badly by stealing from the store. She didn’t question why this teenager’s foster parents would be willing to “help” by paying restitution on her behalf. She kept saying she wished she could do more to help.

Seeing Help In A New Way

If help means making something easier for someone else by offering the resources we have, then what is the “something” we are making it easier for someone to do? Are we indirectly solving a problem? Are we pointing someone in the right direction even if it means not going with them on their journey? Are we offering comfort even when we can’t take away the pain? Are we making it easier for someone to avoid the consequences of wrongdoing? Are we making it easier for someone to rely on people for help instead of turning to the true source of help, God? Are we making it easier for someone to keep doing something that prevents positive change and growth?

©, February 2019

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