Asking for Help

Sam (not his real name) moved from a very small coal camp to a university town to pursue a degree in engineering.  It was almost the first time that Sam had ever been more than 20 miles from his home.  He was shy, and when he did speak it was with a twang that came from his home town.  He met few classmates and was very lonely.  He became depressed and rarely went to class.  Sam had a 0.00 GPA after his first semester.  He didn’t return to the university the second semester.  As a result of his low first semester GPA, he was suspended from the university for a year.

After being out of school for a year, he decided to try again.  Again, Sam fell into the same situation.  Even though he was repeating all of his classes, he again failed them.  This time he was suspended for five years.

Sam returned home and got a job in the local coal mine.  Four months later, Sam and 21 of his fellow miners were killed in a mine explosion.  At the memorial service, Sam’s high school principal reflected on how bright Sam was and the hopes he had for him.  “Sam’s only weakness was that he was too proud to ask for help.”

Asking for help has often been thought of as a sign of weakness.  How often have you heard the phrase:  “You should be able to figure that out for yourself.”  There are those who need to be guided every step of the way.  Unfortunately, those in leadership positions have become so turned off by those needing continual guidance that they treat everyone asking for help in a disdainful way.  The Sam’s who are inherently shy are simply afraid to ask for help. They let their shyness impact their hopes.

We need to become sensitive to those who are afraid to ask for help.  We need to learn the clues that tell us when someone is genuinely confused or lost.  Then we need to reach out to them by simply asking:  “How can I help you?”

We also need to mentor those who are reluctant to ask for help.  The goal of our mentoring should be to develop a comfort level.  A mentor could have saved Sam’s life if he had reached out.

All of us have gone through childhood by learning when to ask for help and when we become confident enough to do something on our own.  Just think about when you went from asking for help to tie your shoes to when you could do it for yourself.  Unfortunately, we lose our ability to know when to ask for help when we move toward adulthood.

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“Nothing makes one feel so strong as a call for help.”   – Pope Paul VI

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