NEED HELP? (at the dentist part 3)

An update: Last week’s dental check-up went PERFECTLY – no cavities, no tartar, no yelling (see Yelled At)

my hard work paid off.

As I return to my “at the dentist” series, I share the story of 4 little words overheard in the waiting room.  A while back, a friend of mine was dealing with a painful foot problem that necessitated her wearing a walking boot.  Even walking was difficult during that lengthy time, and she was unable to drive.  It was one of those times when problems seem to compound, and she also needed to see the dentist. As she explained her situation, I learned that we go to the same dentist and that I was available on the morning of her appointment to help her out.  I’m not sure whether she asked me to do it or I offered, but a plan was made for me to pick her up at home, take her to the office and come back for her when she was done.  We built in plenty of time since the cumbersome boot would slow her down.

She thanked me over and over for the help, while apologizing for needing it. When we had made our way into the building and up to the office window, I stood next to my friend as she explained to the  receptionist that she had to have me drive her because of an injury that put her in a boot and kept her from getting there on her own. She was understandably frustrated with the ongoing pain and inconvenience of her situation.

I can still see the kindness in the woman’s face and hear the compassion in her response, “Everybody needs help sometime.” Caring and true words.

For some of us, though, “everybody” means “everybody but me.” I know people who serve others with seemingly endless energy, who recognize and meet the needs they see, but are hesitant, even resistant, to ask for or accept help. I’ve witnessed this while volunteering in our church’s Meal Train program.  Last winter, my husband and I were able to take a simple meal to an elderly couple from our church while they were home-bound with a health issue.  The wife had been reluctant to receive meals, but now admitted that the help was needed and appreciated while she cared for her husband.  This saintly lady has labored for the hungry and disadvantaged of our community for many years. I first came to know her when I began taking a turn working in our local Food Pantry, and was impressed with her strength and energy.  Last winter was her “sometime”.

Our Food Pantry is a combined effort of area churches that serves people who meet residence and income qualifications – and who admit that they need help. I’ve seen first-time visitors to the Pantry tentatively enter and get in line and heard how the lovely woman who collects their information and helps them make out their food request makes them feel welcome and at ease.  She, too, expresses that sometimes we need a little help.

Asking for help isn’t easy for many of us.  I suspect that few people ask our church for meals during a difficult situation, so it is the church family’s job to notice the need and contact our Caring Cooks coordinators about a Meal Train. Sometimes the coordinators make and deliver the food themselves rather than asking us volunteers for help!

I’m not always quick to recognize and meet other people’s needs.  It’s partially because I feel inadequate or nervous about what might be required.  Taking a friend to see my dentist whose office is in my neighborhood was easy, but if someone needed a ride to Pittsburgh or Columbus…(see Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares). Being  part of a caring church gives me opportunities to join others in making a difference in our community in ways that fit my schedule and abilities.

And when the recipients’ needs are met, I find my own heart filling up with JOY.  As gratitude is expressed, I often reply, “It’s my pleasure!” Perhaps I’ll start adding, “Everybody needs help sometime.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

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Train Them Up

My ambition in 1978 was to become an elementary teacher.  At age 17, I headed off to Bowling Green State University as an education major.  While I never lost respect for the profession, after four quarters and some life changes, I decided to pursue a different degree.  As someone who has tremendous admiration for professional teachers and a deep desire to see children well-educated, I am finding current public concern about our public schools interesting enough to collect a few thoughts on the topic.

This week I have learned of the confirmation of the new education secretary for the United States, seen Facebook comments ranging from celebration to despair, and also been reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  Vance, an Ohioan in his early 30s, explains in great detail the serious disadvantages of his life and what it took to overcome them and succeed. I highly recommend this book.  It is giving me insight into the lives of people who live around me and reinforcing some of my deepest held beliefs.

I am a product of public education.  My husband was educated in Catholic and public schools.  Our two sons attended and graduated from public schools with honors.  We all went on to finish college, and our oldest has made a good start toward his master’s degree.  I believe there are several factors that account for these accomplishments.  I hope to present them with humility.

  • All four of us were raised by hardworking fathers and mothers who saw raising their kids and being a home maker as their honor. Being available during school hours enabled me to volunteer in our sons’ schools, pick them up after school, prepare dinner, and have time and energy to help with homework or read together in the evening.
  • We were involved in church.  Speaking for myself and, I believe, for Eric and Kyle, our involvement in Sunday School, youth groups, and church service  was as integral in our education as was our schooling.  Dave’s Catholic upbringing laid a solid foundation of integrity and strong family values.
  • Good personal choices in life regarding time management, earning and spending money, and health kept us on track.   While I don’t deny that each of us has a good measure of God-given ability, I wholeheartedly agree with author J.D. Vance that effort leads to success.  In Hillbilly Elegy, he explains that the feeling that our choices don’t matter needs to be overcome.

Vance also discusses his mixed opinions about whether students should be provided with government vouchers that enable them to attend private schools, escaping failing public schools,  or whether the money should be poured into the public schools to improve their effectiveness.  In truth, no amount of funding or teaching expertise can overcome the sad and sometimes dangerous home life that many students endure. Without encouragement, discipline, and security in the family, the kids face an uphill battle.

My heart aches for broken and struggling families.  I’d love to see all of our communities and students thriving.  There’s not an easy fix, but here are 10 ways in which we members of the public can help:

  1. Vote for your local school levies.
  2. Take an interest in your local school board and vote for people you believe will serve well.
  3. Support and show appreciation for your child’s teachers.
  4. Show up for parent/teachers conferences.
  5. Be committed to your child’s well being, seeing that they get enough sleep, good nutrition, and time with you.
  6. Make reading at home a priority.  Read to them.  Listen to them read.  Perhaps, like Dr. Ben Carson’s mother, you should limit TV viewing and require your kids to read two books a week and write a report on each.
  7. Volunteer at a school.  See if your Ohio elementary school has a Project MORE program in which volunteers spend one-on-one time reading with kids who are struggling. Help out with field trips or parties.  Attend your child’s evening programs and sporting events.  Ask what you can do!   (My own part is making weekly visits to two 1st grade classes to share lessons from Winners Walk Tall about responsibility, respect, honesty, etc.  The Winners Walk Tall program was developed by a grandfather in Cincinnati to help keep kids out of gangs.)
  8. Support or start programs such as our church’s Bountiful Backpacks ministry that provides weekend food for needy kids.
  9. Donate books to your school’s library.
  10. Pray for teachers and administrators.

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.  Proverbs 14:23






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