Hi, all parents of little children now or anytime in the past. Have you ever been in a public place with a child who goes into an all-out meltdown? I mean the screaming, throwing things kind of fit? Were you able to maintain the calm detachment that all perfect parents have in reserve for those “special” moments?
More than once, and I am not afraid to admit it, I have snatched up the child and hurried out of wherever we were to continue the fit, both mine and the child’s, in the car.
But there have been occasions when the child was too big to be snatched up. Or there were too many of them having a fit to carry them all out.
On more than one occasion, thank the goddess, someone (a teacher, another parent??) has come to my rescue… has either said, “It’s happened to all of us,” or has swooped in with the perfectly timed, effective magical distraction that stopped the child’s fit (and mine!).
I am so grateful for those people; for their presence with me, for their solidarity with all parents, for their skill. I can only hope that I have been as courageous as they were, stepping in to help when help is needed.
Thank you—to all of you—who have had the kind of courage it takes to help a stranger out.
It takes courage and confidence to step in, to step up whenever anyone is not at their best… be that a child or a parent; anyone who needs to know they are not alone, that help is there.
I purposely titled this sermon “I Need Help” because I know how it feels. It feels bad to need help. It feels good to be of help.
I have noticed in my travels through UU land, doing congregational ministry for nearly 20 years now, that I am like a lot of UUs. We value our independence. We like to figure things out for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to do it ourselves. We are proud and private people. I have noticed that when we are sick or in need, or just not at our best, we have a hard time asking for help. Sometimes we even have a hard time receiving help when it is offered.
This is the last of the worship services on the theme of courage. Several Sundays ago, we considered how courage can come when we allow our fears to create a story with a plotline that gives us a way to survive a dangerous situation. Then the next Sunday, we considered how, if we can learn the practice of telling the “microscopic truth,” of sharing how we are feeling in our bodies and what are we thinking, then we can create a path to the resources that will help us be more courageous… becoming our most authentic selves, answering “our calling.”
Today, let’s consider how each of us can together act with a sense of enduring confidence, assured that an ask for help will be answered. That kind of confidence endures embarrassment, loss, weakness, need; and it comes from a place in the heart that has learned to trust that help is always there… always available. That in the end, all will be well.
The heart that also knows the value of honesty can and will be able to trust, not just that a finely honed skillset good for distracting children may suddenly appear when we most need it, but that our inner strength will attract the help we need.
Trust is about having the enduring confidence, the inner certainty that when we ask for help, help will come.
Trust is the foundation for courage.
Some people believe that courage is all about displaying an aggressive bravado in a tough situation. But in the end that is nothing but a bluff. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t last because it isn’t real. It is an act.
Real courage comes from a confidence that arises from that something deeper and more lasting than any show of force.
Perhaps you are thinking we are born the way we are, and that is just the way it is. Or it’s the environment, or how we are parented!
It is all that and more. We also make choices.
We make choices about the way we live our lives.
The open heart can be the seat of inner strength, of confidence, of endurance. The root of the word courage is the Latin cor. Translated, cor meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
As a colleague of mine says, “Courage is about that something-ness deep inside that you can rely on… that you need not show off; rather, it simply shows in the way you live your life.” It is not necessarily something we are born with. It is learned and it is chosen.
When I was a mother of young twins, I got to the point of exhaustion. I had to ask for help. I did and help came. I now hold a sense of empathy I never had held before, for mothers who have done awful things because they didn’t or couldn’t ask for help.
It is hard to be confident, to be courageous when you are the one feeling weak and alone. It is not easy to ask when you are the one embarrassed, confused, and lost.
Remember that courage isn’t about emotions, even though it is rooted in the heart. It has more to do with speaking the truth.
Courage doesn’t mean bluffing your way through a scary situation. It does mean being willing to say your truth and accepting that that truth may often be “I need help.”
Courage means being willing to endure the helpless feeling, to see the reality of your weakness.
It means allowing yourself to ASK for help.
I go to coffee shops a lot to write, to think, to get my much needed introvert time. I am usually at these coffee shops alone, with electronic things, and coffee. And “because coffee,” there comes a time when I have to go to the restroom. I regularly practice asking a perfect stranger to watch my stuff.
It is about trust. Not once has the other person responded, “Nope.” Would they knock a thief to the floor over a laptop that wasn’t theirs? Would they leave before I returned? I don’t know. But so far everyone I have asked for help in that way has kept covenant with me.
The kind of courage it takes to ask for help is built on relying on the covenant, the promise we make over and over again, that we will trust each other. It is ultimately this sort of trust, simple and often temporary, but consciously and confidently built upon the contract we have with something bigger than any two, three or congregation full of us. It comes from a trust in a higher something, or a shared set of values. That means we act as if we hold trust together.
What does that mean? We choose to believe and to act as if we are all in this together. Not that my problem is your problem, but rather that being honest regarding who I am and what I need is the best way to be in right relationship with myself and with others. It takes courage to be honestly uncomfortable, to say out loud that you need help.
When the tin man, the lion, and the scarecrow went to the Wizard of Oz to ask for what they needed, they chose to be honest about what they didn’t yet have. They faced their fears. Expressing one’s lack, one’s need, is always scary. When you do that you have made yourself vulnerable to the possibility that no one will help you.
And maybe that will happen, that no one will help.
Remember what the good witch Glenda said to Dorothy when she asked for help to return home to Kansas? The good witch Glenda said, “You’ve always had the power to go back.
“Why didn’t you tell her before now?” asked the scarecrow. “Because,” Glenda said, “she wouldn’t have believed it. She needed to learn it for herself.”
You have the power to speak your truth, to name your need.
If you are worried or heartsick,
Or full of doubts, or certain of discouraging things,
You have come to the right place.
A place of loving invitation and challenge
Where, as you’re willing, you might consider
The vast, rolling, upwelling power of love
Throughout history, and throughout your own life.
Let every breath testify to how what could have ended things
In the end, didn’t end things.
And let every heartbeat in this room be the reminder that says,
No matter what:
“We’re here. We’re here. We’re here.”