Share. Connect. Love.

Posted 2015-10-19T19:43:00Z

When to Help

I'm late writing this week's update because I spent a lot of time learning about volunteering with refugees and then helping friends lead a church service for refugees living nearby. What a privilege to serve. I was asked to lead songs with the children, and I had the absolute delight of teaching twenty kids the motions to one of my favorite songs - "Jesus Soccer Star." I watched them dance along with smiles on their faces, and each one lit up when I pointed to them during the "I just came here to love you" line. As refugees in Germany, very few of these kids speak English, though, so they had no idea what the song was about. One of the twenty was fluent in English, and about half understood German. We translated the basic concept into German and the kids who only knew Arabic danced anyways (the kid who spoke French sat in the corner with his arms crossed).

I felt so privileged to sing with these kids and to return home to my bed in my warm apartment last night. I'm so fortunate - for lots of reasons. One reason I considered myself fortunate last night was that I knew what was going on for the most part because the children's service was conducted completely in English with German translation. I understood all the English and bits of the German. Tonight I was a little closer to their position as I got into the car of a non-English speaker and drove into town to be helped up two flights of stairs and sat in a room full of non-English speakers. Singing in the local women's choir brings me so much joy, but there are only two other English speakers in the choir. My old neighbor was the one to drive me tonight, and she doesn't know any English at all.

A sweet older woman who lives nearby me recently started attending, and she sat by me tonight. She loves to come talk to me when I'm walking, and she knows I understand little German, but babbles away in local dialect nonetheless. She has no idea it's a huge distraction when I'm trying to concentrate on six specific muscle movements each step, and I don't have the vocabulary to explain that to her, so I just smile and try to keep focused on my walking. She loves to help, and I love the sentiment, though sometimes help offered to me isn't all that helpful. For example, when I went to stand up tonight, she eagerly grabbed my arm and started to pull me up which was actually hindering my balance and ability to put energy into my legs appropriately. I had to ask her to stop, and she immediately realized that it was keeping me from standing on my own.

People often times rush in to help me when they see me struggle: they're being polite; they're being kindhearted; they're being unhelpful. I can't tell you how many times people in the grocery store have stopped when they see me reach behind my wheelchair with my bag to hang it on the handles and jump in to finish the job. Sometimes they ask if I need help, and when I say no, they proceed to interfere anyways. This is demeaning. This is humiliating. This is preventing me from growing. 

I am disabled. There are times when I need help. Conversely, there are times when I need to use my muscles and develop a skill. Earlier today, a friend messaged me promising that he'd never help me again without me first asking and included a video as explanation. I've pasted it below and encourage all of you to view it. Chris said he thought this guy and I would be good friends which is likely since his dad and my grandpa were actually good friends years ago, but while Grandpa Frank and Nate Saint were connected through airplanes and their heart for missions, Steve and I are connected through our disability and our heart for missions.

The service I did with my friends for the refugees was a chance to share the love of Jesus with people who need help. I went to a training on Saturday to learn to offer help that they do need rather than offering something I think is helpful that might actually hurt. There's no training for how to interact with me, but in this video, Steve Saint gives a great explanation of both how to interact with me as a disabled person and how to interact with those who need the love of Jesus (which is all of us).

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Comments (3)

  • Greg Steward
    Greg Steward

    Thank you SO much for that video link. In addition to being a great help to understand how we can be TOO helpful to those going through rehab, Steve's missions context has made me want to reflect on whether we might be TOO helpful in some ways to internationals who come here. I am going to suggest that our staff and volunteers watch this and discuss it.

    5 years ago · Reply
  • Joy Watson
    Joy Watson

    thanks for helping me understand NOT helping. I think there is a bit of good stuff in here for students too :)

    5 years ago · Reply
  • Corrine Rogers
    Corrine Rogers

    What a wonderful video to help us understand. I would love "not" helping you. At least I'd try.

    5 years ago · Reply