“Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long, ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”
For some reason the chorus of this song has been annoyingly stuck in my head the last few days – and I apologise, if I have now passed it on to your subconscious mind!
So, I have been thinking, how often do we actually lean on others, or be ready to have others lean on us?
I know I am getting better at realising that I can’t do it all by myself. I have written about the importance of community here.
But it takes courage to put our hand up and ask for help. Even more to tap someone on the shoulder and ask for something specific.
I remember a friend who suffered from depression, telling me once, that she has a saying that she uses when she feels at her tipping point – “I’m not waving, I’m drowning!” Maybe we should all have a saying like this one, that makes it easier to ask for help.
I know I don’t do that easily beyond my immediate family. I am too proud. I feel too much like I should be capable of handling another little thing even if at times I feel like I am guarding a precarious stack of cards.
I find it even harder to receive. Particularly when I haven’t asked for help, and someone has just done something kind. Big gestures or small, I pretty much ugly cry when someone does something nice for me.
On the other hand, I find offering help, or just doing something for someone, much easier. Now don’t go putting a halo on Saint Zinta just yet – I am no home-cooked meal bearing soul. But if I know someone is doing it tough, I try to think of ways I can help and then execute. It might be buying a beautiful quiche from my local delicatessen and dropping that to them, it might be sending a bunch of flowers, it might be writing a note of encouragement, it might be just arranging a catch up and chatting.
There’s an old bible story about Moses who discovered that if he kept his arms up in the air, during a battle, his people would win. Now I am not as fit as I once used to be, but back in the day (pre-kids) when I used to hit the gym at 5.30am daily and train with a personal trainer and a gym buddy – I know the “burn” that can take hold just from holding arms out or up for more than a few minutes. So – you get the picture – Moses is feeling that burn, so he puts his arms down to shake them out and then his people start to lose the battle. Actual lives are being lost, so we are not talking about gritting teeth to hold out for another minute or two at the gym, we are literally talking about life and death consequences. So, his two best buddies Aaron and Hur see what is going on, they sit Moses down on a rock and they each hold up Moses’ arms until sunset when the battle is won.
It is not always about asking for help. Sometimes it is about seeing the need and jumping in to hold someone else up, before they ask for help (even if they ugly cry when you do).
My mum taught me, what her father taught her:
To be a good host at a dinner table, you should anticipate a guest’s need before they even ask. If you see a guest looking across the table, you pass the salt before they utter their wish for it.
Now that sounds awfully genteel, but here’s the context. My mum was one of six kids in a family who arrived in Australia years after World War II ended as refugees. Her father had lost his first wife and had as a single dad with a daughter re-married my grandmother. They arrived here with nothing. They worked multiple jobs, while studying for years, in a foreign language, for the qualifications they already held in Latvia – because they hadn’t thought to grab their qualification paperwork when the bombs began to fall.
My grandfather’s statement about foreseeing another’s need was likely made across a noisy dinner table of eight, where the food on it had been prepared after an extraordinarily long day and in circumstances where there was a real concern about how the next meal would be provided. Even then, my grandfather taught my mother, that we should anticipate the needs of others before they ask for help.
We have so much to give.
We can be the ones to foresee a need and meet it. If only we took the time to see.
Is there anyone around you who has been doing the heavy lifting for too long? Even those who look “strong” need their arms held up every once in a while!
Is the salt right in front of you? Who in your circle is looking for what you can provide?