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My car stopped at the intersection of Highway 30 and State Road 13. I was at the only stoplight in town, less than 2 miles south of my childhood home. One moment my car was running; then it wasn’t. Soon the light was going to turn green and the line of cars behind me would want to go.
I turned the key. My car refused start. I let out a sigh worthy of sitting in a dead car on Friday afternoon. The light turned green. I turned on my hazard blinkers. Cars went around me. The light turned red.
I didn’t want to ask for help.
Andy was a half hour away, plus he was running kids. I called the person you call when you don’t want to ask for help: Dad.
He was coming home from driving a patient to the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “I can be there in about 1 hour and 47 minutes,” he said. “Do you want to just sit tight until I get there?”
I might have rolled my eyes.
The light turned green. Cars honked behind me. I didn’t move.
It was a Friday of a week where I felt pathetic. I knew I needed the perspective of a friend, but I was tired of feeling needy. I just wanted to believe I was fine. I didn’t want to be a burden.
I know the truth is that everyone is fighting a hard battle. Some of us are more transparent about pressing on and fighting the good fight. I was tired of needing support and encouragement; I was tired of resisting isolating myself.
Now I was sitting at a traffic light in a car that wasn’t going to move itself. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t want to ask for help. I called my mom, even though I knew she couldn’t help. “You’ll be okay,” she said.
I got out of my car.
The passenger window of a white jeep in the turn lane rolled down, and a man leaned out. “Do you need help moving your car?”
I walked closer and smiled. Before I could say yes, the driver said, “What are you doing? We don’t have time and you definitely don’t need to help her.” The woman sneered at me and scowled at him.
“Her car is stopped. It will only take a minute to push it out of the way. She can’t do it alone.”
The woman glared and said, “You’re not getting out of this car. We don’t have time.”
The light turned green. “Will you be okay?” he asked.
“No worries,” I said as they squealed away.
I walked a few steps back to my car. I chuckled to myself. There are bigger problems than not wanting to ask for help.
A black car, reminiscent of Knight Rider, with the wear of 30 years since the show was on TV, pulled to the side of the road behind me. A man got out and asked, “Do you need some help.”
I laughed a little and said, “It seems that way.”
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
“It just stopped.”
He waited for me to say more, like he actually cared about the problem. I added, “I’m not sure why it stopped. I just got it a few weeks ago. Everything was fine and it just stopped.”
“Try to start it,” he said.
I slid in to the driver’s seat and tried to start the car. It wouldn’t run.
“Okay, let’s get it out of the way.”
It didn’t matter that I didn’t want help. He was there. “I have no idea what to do,” I said.
He laughed. “No problem…” and he walked me through each step. In a few seconds, my car was out of the way on the edge of the road.
“Do you have a plan?” he asked, “Or do you need more help?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said.
“You’re sure?” My skills for moving the car out of the way must not have given me much credit as a problem solver.
I smiled. “Thank so much, but I’m okay now that it’s out of the way.”
He returned to his car and waved as he pulled away.
I slid back into my car. I just wanted the car to start so I could go on my way. I didn’t want to ask for help, even though I could think of a dozen people who I knew would be willing to help me.
“I’m just so tired of feeling needy,” I said out loud. I looked at the three gas stations taunting me on each corner of the intersection.
“Did I run out of gas?” I continued talking out loud.
There was a good chance that this was the problem. The gas gauge was a little funky in this car and it didn’t ding or flash or do anything noticeable when I reached low fuel.
I have a bad habit of driving until the ding and then getting gas.
Now I was embarrassed on top of being tired of asking for help. I rested my head against the seat and closed my eyes. The absurdity was clear. I needed gas and there were three gas stations within walking distance. I was going to sit there until I mustered enough spunk to walk to a gas station, buy a gas can, purchase case and walk back to my car.
There was a knock on the window. I looked over.
There stood a friend of my parents. He was a staple from my childhood. He opened the door.
“Mr. Hartman,” I said.
“Ruthie, it seems you have a problem. Do you have gas?”
“I was just sitting here thinking that might be the problem,” I said.
“Ron called because your daddy is driving the Shriner van. They told me to come to the north side of the intersection of 30 and 13 because there was some help that needed delivered.”
“I could use some help,” said.
“Come on,” he said. “I have a gas can in my garage.”
Ol’ Jer took me to his house, found a gas can (with gas) and took me back to my car. He poured it in my tank. Then he followed me to the gas pump.
“You good, now?” he asked.
“I am,” I said. “Thanks Mr. Hartman.”
“No thanks needed,” he said. “Happy to help.” He drove away.
As I put gas in my car, I couldn’t help but snicker. It was the end of a week when I was tired of fighting the lies of the enemy. I was weary from believing that I’m a burden as a friend. I wanted to hunker down and isolate myself.
I looked up at the crisp Autumn sky and the white jelly fish clouds. I closed my eyes and imagined a kind God just beyond the blue, smiling down from Heaven. I am not a burden.
We are not made to go at life alone. We are made for friendship. Pretending that I don’t need help is as absurd as sitting in the middle of three gas stations and wishing my car to start rather than adding gas to the tank.
Too often we get trapped in isolation. Too often we think it is better to go at it alone. Too often we imagine we are more burdensome than we are.
This week I celebrate the truth — we are all fighting a hard battle…and we need one another.
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So true. Reading your story brought tears. We need each other but sometimes it's just hard to reach out.
We are NOT made to go at life alone. We think we should be, but God knows better. That's why He gave us friends and family.
I love the life lesson here. I am so much like you in not wanting to be a burden. But I also know that sometimes people need to be needed. A friend once told me it was a pleasure to help, so please call whenever. Have you ever thought that it is a pleasure to help others? When we need help, we give others an opportunity to serve us. I think that's why God made us so dependent on one another.
Oh, Ruth . . . a burden you are not. You bring joy and inspiration to many. Remember that lesson of needing one another. It's one that needs to live in your heart and mind. Hugs!
My gosh I love your words/thoughts/writing.
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Lol, as I was reading, I was thinking 'she needs to call mom & dad….' Life in a small town!
I agree – we need each other. Some days we are the one needing help and some days we're the one offering, but we all need somebody sometime. Thanks for sharing.
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Admitting that we need help is so important. In my classroom, I try to encourage students to say that they need help or time if they get stuck. Once they have the freedom to ask for help, they start asking for time knowing that they can ask for help at any point during the interaction. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, but a recognition that we can give and receive help. It's all good.
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