“Help, help,” the little girl called out. From my vantage point by the pool and her sing-song tone, I could tell that she wasn’t in distress but was playing in the water with friends instead. I taught my children from an early age that they shouldn’t yell “help” at the pool unless they genuinely needed the lifeguards’ assistance. I didn’t want them to cause unnecessary alarm and hoped people would take them seriously when they actually called for help.
Asking for help only at dire times makes sense when we’re talking about water safety. Unfortunately, in our culture, we’re conditioned to believe that asking for help in most circumstances demonstrates weakness. We’re taught to be rugged individuals and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We think we shouldn’t ask for help unless we are desperate, and even then, we should hesitate before reaching out to others. We’re told to take care of ourselves and depend on no one if we can avoid it.
Instead of making us stronger, however, our collective focus on individualism can create seclusion and loneliness. Our go it alone attitude has the potential to do us in. I’ve come to believe that community is more important than ever, especially after last year’s pandemic cut us off from each other. Honestly, I never realized how much I need to connect with people until we started emerging from the shutdown. I missed hearing people’s stories, giving hugs, asking about their families, learning about their circumstances, and spending time with them. Whether it is one on one or in a group setting, the sense of belonging and the deeper bonds that I feel after being with others is essential to my wellbeing. I wasn’t fully aware of the heaviness I carried until it started to lift in the presence of others.
As we went back to church in person, I began to understand just how vital the community of faith is to me. I was relieved to again be with these people that I loved and found joy in welcoming new people into our faith family. The writer of the book of Hebrews said it well, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another . . .” Hebrews 10:23-25. God intends for the people of God to hold one another up and to be together when we are able.
While not everyone is ready to venture back into their communities of choice, I urge all of us to reach out and connect to others in some way. We are not meant to do life alone. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some alone time, but long-term isolation is not the same as taking a little time to relax, rest, and recharge. We grow in empathy and understanding when we are with others. We expand our vision and deepen our faith when we come alongside others and walk with them through the minutiae of the everyday routines and stay with them during the harder times when they need help.
We give and receive God’s love when we are together. If we invest in one another, we will feel more comfortable asking for help before desperation sets in, and we can rest assured that our people will rally around us in difficult times. Let us make the time to find and develop relationships with people for the good times and the bad knowing God is with us through it all.