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An Offering to Receive

At dawn this morning, I noticed a mist rolling into my backyard, so I took a moment to step outside. Being rural Montana, “my backyard” involves horse pastures, strips of forest, and a profoundly gorgeous view of the mountains on the north, east, and western sides. In the damp, cool morning air, I could smell the resins from the trees and hear the birds calling. Everything was peaceful. I didn’t realize, until right then, how much I needed that moment. Not only was it a gift to my body and mind, but much-needed medicine for my soul.

It’s so difficult for me to ask for help. I was raised in a world of “if you can’t make it work, you’re not working hard enough” and a general disdain for needing/wanting/asking for help. If you ask for help, you’re a beggar. If you need help, you’re weak. If you want help, you’re lazy. And the added bonus of, if you ask questions, you’re, at the very least, a bother.

I believe in self-responsibility and self-sustainability. I believe in the value of “if you teach a man to fish…” But why does it have to be “Self-Sustainable or Bust,” “learn to fish or starve to death”? My short answer: it doesn’t.

We can live in a world where people take responsibility for themselves, but also reach out when they need the extra support. We are not all herculean demi-gods able to conquer the world completely alone. We are not all feeble, helpless leeches happy to take from others and bleed them dry. We are all humans. And I think, more than that, we’ve bought into — at least I have — the myth that we can go through life without any outside help.

I was recently faced with a situation where I wanted to go to a very valuable skills workshop, but could only afford a portion of the cost to get there. I tried so many different angles, tried to make the numbers work, but with our tight income, it just wasn’t coming together and I was so disappointed. I had almost given up on trying to attend when I listened to a podcast episode (find it here) in which the speakers mentioned that in many cultures, it’s an honorable thing to ask for help.

Now— for a bit of background— my husband and I have been struggling to make ends meet for a long while, have had to borrow from friends and family and others more than I’d really like to admit. Because of that, I have been so sick of needing help, because of the before-mentioned belief (that I’m working on dispelling). But after listening to that comment, I felt called to give myself one more chance.

So, after weeks of praying that Hashem would make the wise path obvious to me, I took a deep breath, and let my need be known to those who might listen, and within 48 hours people had rallied together to offer donations, loans, and practical support enough to get me there and back again (though, without Bilbo Baggins). If it wasn’t for that dumb joke I just made, I’d probably be in tears, again, with gratitude. I certainly bawled my eyes out when person after person offered their support in such big ways, each of them. — Okay, I’m crying, now.

I know this may be a bit of a challenge to be in my shoes for this, but imagine something similar for yourself. Imagine being blessed so fully and suddenly — and all because you put your need out in the open, to God and those around you, and allowed for them to move according to how they felt called to move.

And I’m realizing that’s really what this is for most of us: a willingness to be honest with each other and to offer others the opportunity to meet us where we are. If I never make my dreams and my needs known, I’m preemptively rejecting those who would have walked alongside me in my journey, Hashem included. If I completely close myself up “in the name of Self-Reliance”, then I doom myself to isolation.

It’s been a huge lesson for me in learning how to offer opportunities to give and receive. May we all learn to open the door, step outside, and let the blessings flow.

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