One of our main characteristics as Christians is that we feel the urge to help. We must not only recognize our own limitations, but in order to be truly of help, we must look at the gifts and limitations of others. You might say that at different times we need to be a ladder, or a lifeboat, and sometimes a lamp.
When the person needing help is in a pit, is depressed, is severely lonely or afraid they need a ladder. You can become a ladder by a positive attitude toward them, by cheerful words and quiet presence. This lets them know that there is someone who understands and will share with them as they climb out of the pit that holds them. They do not need lots of talking, just lots of presence. And we can all do that. We can BE A LADDER.
Others may need more. It may take some tough talking, and strong decisions, but they are sinking and need a lifeboat. Presence is good, but more must be done when someone cannot find the path. In this case, you may have to do most of the work: scheduling appointments with counselors, doctors and following up with what is needed. It will be hard work, and your strength will be tested. But, when needed you can BE A LIFEBOAT.
Sometimes not too much is needed. You can see in the person you want to help all the things needed. They just do not see it in themselves. Turning a lamp on for them is all you have to do. You may hand them a pamphlet, or an article in a magazine. You may suggest that they take part in an activity at hand, or help at a shelter or food pantry. Not too much is needed. Just throw some light on a situation and let them go. BE A LAMP.
The trick (?) to helping is knowing which is needed: a ladder, a lifeboat, or a lamp. To offer a lamp to the one in the pit is not too helpful. On the other hand, to send a life boat when all someone needs is a lamp is overdoing a good thing.
The Lord of us all is the best determiner. Ask Jesus. He played all three roles in his lifetime.
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg