Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can You Ask For Help?

A former schoolmate of mine was buried yesterday.

As we get older, we know that death is part of life and we come to accept it as a natural part of living that we will face someday.

However, what made her end-of-days so tragic in my mind was that she died by her own hand at an early age (under 50 years of age).

She was significant to me in junior high and high school.  While I am 6’3” now, back then I was much smaller and was a regular target of bullies.  My friend would step in often and would chase the bullies off, telling them to leave me alone.  She was my hero when I needed help.

But many of us didn’t know that she was crying for help and by the time we discovered it, it was too late.

Many people, businesses, governments and the world-at-large are crying for help.

Sometimes the cry for help is not loud enough.

Sometimes the cry is deafening but we are so preoccupied with something else that we don’t notice.

However, the worst cry for help of all is the one that goes unsaid.

When a cry for help goes unheard, bad things happen.

Families suffer - businesses go bankrupt - governments make significant mistakes - ecologies languish - economies collapse.

People die.

We as inhabitants of this beautiful planet carry a two-fold responsibility as part of the “rent” we pay for occupying space here.

The first responsibility is that when we see opportunities to help others personally, professionally, ecologically or in any other way, I think it is ok to stick our nose in to offer help.  If our help is turned down, we should assess how important the situation is before saying “ok” and walking away.

The second responsibility and the one that is far more difficult to live up to is for each of us to not be afraid to ask for help.

If we are the one who needs help, the greatest impediment to asking for it is our ego (which in turn feeds things like fear, insecurity, embarrassment, etc.).  In many of these situations, ego stands between the individual or organization and the unlimited potential that that person or organization has.

Many of the small businesses (under $15 million in annual revenue) that I have seen collapse over the last 5 years have cited shifting markets, the economy, wavering consumer confidence, etc).

When I do post-mortems on these companies to understand why they collapsed, I often discover that many of them couldn’t get past their own ego – to be forced to admit that they don’t know it all and they may have made a few mistakes.

With that, they saw failure as a more effective option than admitting they didn’t know everything.

This demonstrates how powerful the ego is.

We aren’t afraid of failure. 

We are afraid of how failure will be perceived.

Is our ego that important?

I hope not.

Let’s be more aggressive in offering help to others.

More importantly, let’s not be afraid of asking for help.

A person or organization’s life may depend on it.

It may be yours or someone close to you.

Can you ask for help? 

Do you have the courage to ask for it when you need it?

Do you have the sense of obligation to answer the call when it comes on behalf of others?

As for my friend, my prayers are with her family.  We didn’t hear her cry for help. 

Let’s not let the cries for help go unnoticed, unheeded and unanswered, including our own.

That is, after all, an important part of our responsibility while we are here.  Our responsibility to others also includes the fact that asking for help is much more difficult than offering it, so let’s be more cognizant of the needs of others.

We can’t save everybody and everything. 

But I think we can do much better.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Can You Ask For Help?”, please click here.

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