Last night my son and I were walking out of Lowe's Home Improvement Store when I noticed an elderly woman in the parking lot struggling to get out of her electric scooter. She tried to stand, managed to get halfway up, but then sat back down. She looked around helplessly.
I approached her and asked if I could help.
"Yes, thank you," she said. "I need you to hold my hand. Just hold it firmly."
And so I did. I grasped her hand, gently pulled her to her feet, and then held her hand a few seconds longer so she could get her balance. She thanked me, we chatted a few minutes, and that was that.
Later, I thought how the act of extending "a helping hand" is the simplest, most basic way to reach out to someone; that, at its heart, it's taking an opportunity God gives us to give of ourselves. Sometimes extending a hand isn't easy, and often it can take us out of our comfort zone, but mostly it opens the door for God's grace to flow so we can experience compassion and love at its basic level. It's wholly uncomplicated -- it's a teenager holding the door open for a mother pushing a stroller, a neighbor mowing the lawn for someone in the hospital, the librarian going the extra mile to help a student with a research project, or a stranger helping to pick up a bag of spilled apples in the store.
Sometimes it can be a college student who helps a nun.
The first time Sr. Gaudiosa stayed with us she told us how, on her very first flight from Tanzania, she had to change planes in Germany where she was forced to take an escalator to get to her gate. This was the first escalator she had ever seen and it terrified her. She stood to the side, studying it. She watched how people got on. She approached it, lost her nerve, and backed away again. She didn't know what to do.
Then she heard, "Sister? Do you need help?"
It was a German student, male, in his mid-twenties. When she pointed to the escalator he immediately understood. He picked up her bag and took her by the arm.
"Not to worry, Sister. I will help you." And he did. He helped her step on, he held her hand all the way down the escalator, he told her when to step off, and then he escorted her to her gate.
Lending a helping hand. It seems like such a little thing, a minor thing. Insignificant. But last night I was asked to extend my hand ... literally. And it reminded me yet again of the wonderful interconnectedness of humanity.
I held a stranger's hand and it was a beautiful thing.
|Timothy, lending Sr. Gaudiosa a helping hand |
at the Augusta Museum of History.