I was sitting around with some friends of mine this morning chatting passionately about poverty and homelessness. The conversation was lively, loud, vital, and respectful. There was an underlying tone in the conversation however, that was a bit like ‘us and them’. They are down there and we are up here tossing them a helpline. There was this belief that there is a helper and a helpee and that somehow the position of helper was superior.
This is why help in it many forms can go wrong.
What would happen if there was no such thing as help? What would happen if we released both sides from the help-full / help-less codependency?
I remember years ago I was working in Vancouver’s Downtown East End. I was an employment counselor working with people on welfare or employment insurance ‘helping’ them re-attach himself or herself to the workforce. I was working in the East End because I care about people and wanted to help out, after all I was a helper; of the helping kind so to speak.
While working there I noticed my life was being enriched. Along with making a contribution to other people’s lives I was having many realizations about life in general and my own personal development and growth. And, I must admit there was a piece of me that felt spiritually special – I was doing the good work. I was somehow a bit more pure or good or compassionate somehow. I was attached to my spiritual specialness and linked it to my doing the hard work with difficult people.
What was out was my attachment to making a difference – It gave my clever ‘spiritual ‘ ego some leash and in subtle ways I liked it. My self-enjoymen, self-importance,t and self-satisfaction was short lived though.
One day it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so attached to being this ‘helper’ that Grandmother, (my personal word for God) took me over Her knee and spanked me so to speak. As she did I realized there was no such thing as help, that I didn’t have the power to help somebody. This deep belief of mine was replaced in an instant with the awareness that no one is help-less.
The scene was a common one in the downtown east end, an individual, a woman had just fixed in an alley and had stumbled onto the sidewalk and collapsed. I stopped immediately to offer assistance, as did another fellow. We called 911 and just as we did she came to and gave us shit for wrecking her high. It was in the moment of her raging that this realization occurred.
“There is no such thing as help.” Grandmother spoke calmly and firmly.
“What?” I questioned out loud as I was walking along Gore Street back to the office.
“That’s right Honey,” Grandmother said, “No one is help-less. They have simply forgotten they have the tools to succeed in their own life, their own way.”
“What? Then I am totally useless if I can’t be a helper.” I sputtered.
“You are only useless if you are attached to being a helper or helping out.” Grandmother replied softly. “If you are attached to helping, true help will not take place. Remember there but for the grace of Me goes you.”
From that day forward I reminded myself that the helpee and the helper were of equivalent value the only difference is one of us had woken up a little bit sooner than the other. It was and is my authentic presence and willingness to connect with the helpee as a real person with real capacity, ability, and value – not a help-less case. – That genuine connection is what makes the difference we tend to call help.