By Daniel Schantz
The best thing about teaching in a Christian college was that someone always needed me for something.
“Professor, help! I need ideas! I’m teaching junior high boys in camp!”
“Dan, you’re up for devotions in the faculty meeting tomorrow.”
“Hey, Schantzy, you’re the car guy around here. . . . Is it normal for a transmission to smell like burnt pepperoni?”
Now I have retired to a subdivision outside of town, where I have suddenly gone from being needed to being needy. The 10 families who live out here are rather independent. Only my wife needs me now, mostly to kill spiders.
I have an acre of property to mow . . . and mow . . . and mow. Leaves to compost. Shrubs to manicure. Snow to rearrange. And I am poorly equipped for it.
The men out here drive pickup trucks named after mountain ranges and dinosaurs. Their garages are stocked with mowers, chain saws, tillers, even log splitters.
I drive a sedan. I have a mower, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and an ax.
When a blizzard rolled in from Kansas, our long driveway disappeared under 2 feet of snow. I didn’t know what to do, and I’m shy about asking for help.
Not to worry. My neighbor Doug showed up, unbidden, and bladed out our drive with his little tractor.
When our pear tree passed away, I chopped it down, but I couldn’t get the stump out. One day I was sitting at my desk when I saw a tree stump bouncing past my study window. My neighbor John had seen my dilemma, hooked a chain onto the stump, and was trucking it to our backyard.
After pruning our trees, I had a mountain of limbs to take to the dump. Painstakingly, I chopped the limbs into smaller pieces that would fit into the trunk of my sedan. It was slow-going, until my neighbor Ray showed up with a flatbed trailer in tow.
“I can take all those limbs in one load, Dan,” he said, and he did.
My neighbors bring me vegetables from their gardens. They delivered meals when my wife had surgery. They offer to mow my lawn when I go on vacation.
These acts of mercy on an old man have helped me make connections with these private people.
When Ray loaded my tree limbs, I rode along with him. I learned more about him in that half-hour ride than I did from living across from him for eight years.
I have written a lot of thank-you notes, and I try to include a spiritual element—my way of letting them know I am willing to help out with their spiritual needs.
“I thank God for good neighbors like you. Let me know if I can do anything for you.”
“I’m enclosing a devotional book I wrote as a token of my appreciation.”
It’s awkward, being a receiver of such widespread generosity. I am much more comfortable being a giver than a receiver.
Yet, when I look at the ministry of Jesus, I see that he was always letting others help him. Did he really need a boy’s lunch to feed the 5,000? Hardly! But he welcomed it. When he asked the woman at the well for a drink, was he really parched, or was he cutting through gender and racial differences by asking for help? Someone loaned Jesus a boat for an offshore pulpit. Others provided lodging, meals, laundry, transportation, even a tomb for his burial.
Was Jesus a freeloader? Of course not. He just understood that when people help you out, they come to feel like a part of your life and work.
I’m not proposing that we become deadbeats. But when I am truly in need, I shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. It’s what Jesus would do, I think.
Did I mention I could use a little tractor to blade out my own driveway?
Daniel Schantz is a professor emeritus of Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Missouri.