Earlier in the week I went grocery shopping. It wasn’t that the cupboards were completely bare, far from it, but certain teenagers couldn’t find the snacks of their preference and they were beginning to protest: “There’s nothing to eat!”
I did an Aldi run! I don’t know if you have Aldi where you live, or something equivalent, but Aldi is an extremely low cost grocery store. In order to keep their prices low it’s a pretty bare bones experience. The grocery carts are kept chained together outside. In order to get one you have to insert a coin into a metal slot. Later when you return your cart the coin pops back out. The food is kept in cases on basic metal shelving. You put your choices into your cart and then onto the conveyer belt for the check out clerk to scan it. When they’re done doing that they throw it into your cart again. If you want it bagged or boxed you do that yourself, later, over to the side, out of the way.
On Tuesday morning, as I arrived at the store, I began my routine rummage for a quarter, the magic coin that will unlock the all-important cart. (For the record Canadian quarters or Indian 1 rupee coins don’t work. I’ve tried!) My specially reserved quarter had been stolen (probably by the same “hungry” teenager). I searched in the bottom of my purse, in the car’s cupholders, under the seats. Finally I found one. With coat zipped to my chin and a tightly pinched quarter between my be-gloved fingers, I made my way toward the carts.
There was a bit of a ruckus at the cart stop. It seems someone, long gone before, had left their quarter in the slot. They had not taken the coin with them. How scandalous! One lady pulled that particular cart out of the way. “I can’t take this one. I have a quarter,” she snorted. The gentleman behind her, clearly a little confused, started mumbling, “I don’t need that. I’m okay. I have a quarter.” Another elderly lady, just shook her head, back and forth, perplexed. Someone approaching shouted to the gathering cart seekers, “I don’t need that. I have my own quarter.”
It was beginning to be a bit ridiculous! With my silver quarter obviously out and ready since leaving the car, I wasn’t sure what to do. I put my gloved hand in my pocket and bravely declared, “Well, I have a quarter too, but I’m happy to receive this!” It broke the independence ice. People started laughing and chuckling. Suddenly there was community in the air. And a little joy.
People here in the Midwest are very proud of their independence. We don’t need anything from anybody. We take care of our own. Asking for help is a sure sign of weakness. Midwesterners never want to appear needy or insufficient. These are a proud independent people.
In times of disaster—an earthquake, a prairie fire gone out of control—the people of the Tall Grass are undeniably the first to generously step up to help. Tell us what you need and we’ll be there; quickly, with a casserole, and cleaning supplies. We love to give. We love to help.
But on the other side, receiving from others seems to be a difficult thing for the people of the prairies.
True community is formed in the give and take of life. As we reach out to one another, and let others reach out to us, there is a depth of friendship and strength of relational network formed. It’s beautiful. It’s winsome. I would argue, it’s essential!
I remember an old song we used to sing, The Servant Song. The words went like this:
Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are brothers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
Recently I was convicted of independence. A family member offered to change the oil in our car. It was a very kind offer, one we weren’t expecting, nor deserving. I was tempted to blow it off and say no. In some ways it would have been easier to take it down to the Jiffy Lube and pay a stranger to do it. But here was someone offering to be our servant in this simple task. I felt in me the quiet voice of God saying I should receive. I should say yes. I should accept the gift. Let this person do this. It was important for my soul. It was also important, somehow, for his.
Receiving from others is humbling and quieting. It makes us feel small and needy. Receiving from others is also a sweet sacrament. We admit our humanity. We admit our need. We have a moment to see that we cannot do it alone.
Put your quarters away. Receive the gift. Push the cart with your head held high. There is no shame in receiving from others. Ask for the gift to be occasionally in need. Pray for the grace to let others minister to you and meet those needs. Refuse the temptation to believe that independence is strength. In the grand metaphor of life we are all weak and frail. We need each other.
What about you? Do you feel weak when you need help? Do you struggle accepting gifts of grace? Would love to hear from you through the comments.
Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/shopping-cart-shopping-supermarket-58863/