When my oldest was a toddler, she discovered, as most toddlers do, the joy of accomplishing things on her own. She’d pull herself into a chair or put on her shoes or climb the stairs and look up, beaming, and proclaim “All diddy telf!” This was her way of telling us she did it all by herself. She would smile with pride at the new discovery of what she could do unencumbered by mom or dad’s helping hands. We would hover, waiting to offer assistance. She would push past us, proving all that she was capable of.
This is part of becoming. We stretch and test our own limits and step beyond the hands trying to steady us. We can’t grow up without doing these things.
But we also can’t let “All diddy telf” become our mantra, our only way of understanding ourselves.
As soon as we believe that we can (or should) do everything on our own, we fail to admit that we have needs. If we have no needs, then we have no need for others, and, ultimately, we have no need for God.
Why is it that we struggle to admit when we need help? Why is it that we don’t want to admit our needs? Is it because they make us feel vulnerable? Is it because we don’t want others to know that we don’t have it all together? Does admitting our needs ask us to admit that our image as strong or in control is really a veneer?
Perhaps you’ve heard the old image of Heaven and Hell where in both places there is plenty to eat and all the people have arms that can’t bend. In Hell, the people starve because they can’t get the food to their mouths. But in Heaven, the people feed each other. I’ve always heard in this image the beauty of serving others. But what I’ve failed to see is that in order not to starve, we also have to be willing to be fed by another.
To allow another to feed us is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. There is beauty in letting others see and meet our needs.
Until we are willing to accept help, to admit our needs, we aren’t fully part of the community; we haven’t cast our lot. Maybe we actually help build community by asking for help.