In “The Gift of Helping,” we are exploring the spiritual gift of helping and how it applies far beyond the scope of acts of service at church. The gift of helping is a series of scripture meditations orbiting around personal anecdotes about 10 people who helped me in life saving ways in the last 10 years by exercising the unassuming gift of helping.
I heard once that the most important qualification for Jesus to be the Savior of the World was willingness. He was able to do the job for obvious reasons, but more critically, he was willing to do it.
You can be just right for a job, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t willing to do it.
In the years after my diagnosis with bipolar disorder, my friend Sonja was the epitome of helpful to me– Mostly because she was willing to put up with me!
At that time, Sonja knew my neuroses more than any other friend. We once sat down in a movie theatre together– probably to watch one of the Twilight movies– and I was overcome with dread. It was a hot day, and I couldn’t shake a worry that my little puppy-dog, who was at my house, in my yard, would get heat stroke. So we left. And she was totally cool with it.
Sonja accommodated me. I have actually never known anyone else who was so good at providing material support for emotional issues. If you could give someone a tissue for a runny heart, Sonja had the supply.
She would drive out of her way to pick me up from the bar when I had had a drink. Hyper-vigilant anxiety means that I literally wouldn’t drive after a singular drink.
Sonja brought me Slurpees when I was pregnant. My first (and second) trimester weird automatic gag-inducing food was water!– of all things. So, I constantly felt like I was thirsting to death.
We usually call these types of things “favors” and don’t think much of them. Sonja was definitely the friend that heard, “Can you do me a favor…” all the time.
We should think more of favors. When a person is consumed with anxiety or is incapacitated by depression, they often need favors. They need material support to make it through a day of emotionally paralyzing obstacles.
It’s important to know that a person with a mental illness gets stuck on things that you probably don’t. We get stuck on our dog being outside on a hot day, and we can’t get over it. We get stuck on feeling unquenchably thirsty, and we can’t get over it. We get stuck on the prospect of getting pulled over by a police officer, and we can’t logically work through what your blood alcohol level is four hours after one Jack and Coke.
Going out of your way for a person like who I was in the high days of my illness took a consistency of effort that is truly admirable. Doing one favor once is nice. Sonja consistently made efforts to bring me things I needed and take me places I needed to go for years.
Those little accommodations being met did very big things for my anxiety. Sonja’s consistent willingness to stop-gap these quirky needs became a kind of safety net. I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel stranded and unprepared. The fact that she was always willing to help, meant that when I was seized with fear, I knew there was someone who I could call who was familiar with my weirdness, and she was probably going to help me if I asked.
When you offer the gift of helping, willingness is of primary importance, but consistently being willing is the apex.
Thank you Sonja, for giving me the gift of helping through your consistency of aid, your constancy of friendship.