Thursday | Things I'm Thinking
On the way home from soccer today we almost drove over a turtle in the middle of Ridge Road. We stopped, backed up, and like many times before with other middle-of-the road, soon-to-be-crushed turtles, we brought him (yes, it was a boy) into the car and drove him to a new home. Our release point is the I&M Canal. It is much more safe and natural than the subdivision pond where he lived before.
This little event stirred up a question that has been rolling around in my head...
When is helping helpful, and when is helping harmful?
It seems simple, doesn't it?
See a turtle in the middle of the road, moments from being crushed. Stop. Pick him up. Take him to a safe place and release him. Easy.
If only it were that cut-and-dried with people.
See a person in the middle of the road, moments from being crushed. Stop. Pick them up. Take them to a safe place and release them. Easy?
Experience tells me it's not that easy.
Helping is not simplistic. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to people's problems.
Too many times we mistake rescuing for helping.
The thing most needed is not a rescue from the middle of the road, but to learn the skills needed to cross the street.
That kind of helping is hard.
It looks heartless to others, and feels cold and uncaring to us.
How many of us feel good when we help by doing nothing? By nothing, I mean we do not jump into rescue-mode. We of course pray and care and listen and love. But we do not jump in and fix it for them. We stand close by and let the person learn how to maneuver the danger of the busy street. Few of us like to live in that tension. We think the loving thing to do is to rescue, when in fact, that form of help feels good in the moment, but it is harmful in the long run.
Can you actually love someone enough to not fix, to not jump in, to not rescue?
Wow that's hard.
But more often than not it is best.
Please don't run my thoughts to the extreme conclusion that I think a rescue is never in order. Sometimes it is absolutely justified. But a rescue is an exception, not the rule. A pattern of rescues does more harm than good. It enables and even disables.
Helping is complicated. One of my favorite movies on the complexities of helping is A River Runs Through It. The father, who is a pastor, sums up his life-time of learning on helping in one of his final sermons. He says,
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.
Can you love someone enough to let them stay in the middle of the road long enough to learn how to dodge traffic?