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Help. It’s what the strong ask for
Help: it’s what the strong ask for
My friend Dave has been in my life and the world of ROTB since his wedding in 2013.
I love Dave.
In his eyes and by his actions, you can tell he is really just a kid who has gotten older. But he is still quite childlike. (There is a difference between being childish – throwing a tantrum – and being childlike – filled with zeal and joy.)
When I saw him last summer, he was visiting Portland with his bride and daughter. We went to a Portland nickel arcade – cause this is one of Dave’s favorite things to do.
Upon entry, Dave handed two one-hundred dollar bills to the astonished cashier and said, “I’d like you to put $100 on a card for me and split the other $100 on cards for the kids.”
My kids love Uncle Dave.
There’s one other thing you need to know about Dave. Dave has a little bit of OCD. And, by a little bit, I mean a lot. He can get into some serious neurological loops, but he has learned to manage them. You probably wouldn’t notice when you first meet him. But, get to know him, and you’d see how hard he works to keep them at bay.
The reason Dave likes arcades is that he can play the machines that pay out when the user gets the timing just right. Not skee-ball, which also requires dexterity, but the type where you have to hit a button to cause a ball to stop at a certain point. He goes ga-ga for those.
They hit his OCD just right. The satisfaction of timing his card swipe just right and collecting maximum prize value over and over again fires the pleasure sensation in his brain.
After half an hour of time in the arcade, I got bored and sat down.
Dave and the kids weren’t going to run out of game time for a while. A long while. Each kid’s $50 divided by 5¢-a-play yields 1000 plays. That’s a lot of game time.
I took up the game of walking around looking at the people who were there and imagining backstories.
I found Dave at the circular asteroid-type game that shoots a rocket towards a hole in the middle. Dave was swiping, swiping, swiping. And, with about fifty percent of the swipes, he hit the center jackpot. He had figured out the timing.
He noticed me.
While still swiping his card he said,
His tone was tentative.
“Yeah,” I responded.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
“Yeah, Dave. What do you need?”
“Can you tell me to get off of this game, please?”
“Can you do me a favor?”
“Yeah. What is it?”
“Can you get off of that game?”
“Thank you so much.”
And, just like that, he stopped swiping and walked away from the game.
We all need a little help from time to time. And, asking for help – contrary to how it might feel – is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help, in fact, is the opposite of weakness. Asking for help can take great courage – because asking for help is a vulnerable thing to do; it is an admission that we are not enough.
One quality of a healthy spiritual life is knowing that it’s not about me. Usually, we think of this in term of altruism – the practice of selflessness and concern for the well-being of others. But, here we learn that being able to ask for help is an indication of spiritual fitness. It takes spiritual strength to ask for help.
- What if we managed to be more vulnerable?
- What if we asked for help more?
- What if we admitted we could use some support?
This is the first step of 12-step programs – admitting we are powerless! That we can’t do this (recovery, life, etc) on our own.
Getting back to the difference between being childish – throwing a tantrum – and being childlike – filled with zeal and joy, we can see that it is childish to pretend we have everything in order and that we don’t need help. But, to be childlike – to freely ask for help – that is true strength.
Many of us atrophy in our ability to ask for help. As children we asked freely and for this reason being like children is something that the synoptic gospels explain is a requirement of being with God.
But, as we age, we become self-conscious and conspicuously self-obsessed. To quote the Beatles, “When I was younger, so much younger than today // I never needed anybody’s help in any way.”
It is my deep hope that you act more like my friend Dave – able to ask for help.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer