Of course, I know better. There’s no such thing as “all by myself,” but that doesn’t stop me from fighting to maintain the illusion of independence.
I think about “help” a lot. Because of the wheelchair, others ask often how they can offer help without offending when someone seems to need a bit of assistance. My friend Jon Swanson asked yesterday, “What if asking for help is okay?”
I think one of the barriers might be the nature of the word “help,” which perhaps implies something about helplessness and the powerful assisting the weak. I’m bigger, stronger, or smarter, and I’m willing to help you. If you’re the person being “helped” you are implicitly inferior. While that may be objectively true, even an unintended superior/inferior connotation perpetuates a feeling of helplessness.
On the other hand, service conveys humility. It’s more of a willingness to partner with another person, to travel beside him on his path. Perhaps it’s a sense that service offers who I am rather than what I can do.
Service involves a relationship, taking time to care for more than just an immediate need. Perhaps when offering to perform a task, the servant also stops to chat for a moment. While it takes more time, this extra step communicates a sense of equality that touches and enriches both people.
Looking through this lens, we’d do better to adopt an attitude of humility on either side of the helping equation. So when we see a perceived need, we offer to serve.
And we drop the notion of “all by myself,” humble ourselves, and allow others to serve by asking for help.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, the servant of all.” (Mark 9)
How have you experienced the difference between help and service?
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