By Linda Hart Green
I received this fancy jar opener for Christmas. This may seem like a terrible choice for a gift, but it was actually thoughtful. My age and a pesky form of inflammatory arthritis in my hands make it difficult for me to open jars and bottles. In an effort to maintain independence, I have resorted to various tools. Tools I have used included but were not limited to: a letter opener, scissors, pliers and a little rubberized circle. I have sometimes added hot water, a towel and a sharp bang on the edge of the kitchen counter to the mix.
When all else fails, I grudgingly take my item and go find my brother and ask him to open whatever it is. He has hands the size of catchers’ mitts. When he was a baby, he would grab hold of my hair and not let go. He thought it was funny. Now, he simply twists the lid and pop! It opens. He says he likes being my “opener.” It makes him feel useful. However, he can’t hide a little self-satisfied smile. He is the one who found the four-in-one jar opener to help preserve a bit of his older sister’s dignity.
I’ve found several life lessons in this experience. My new jar opener is a demonstration that one size does not fit all. Four holes allow you to match the opening with the lid. You have undoubtedly heard the adage, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
There are a lot of unnecessary banging hammers in our world today. Violence and chaos are not solutions.
Finding the right tool for the job makes all the difference. It saves a great deal of time and frustration. Being independent is important, but so is the willingness to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength.
I have been a helper for most of my life by nature and by profession. I have needed a lot of help in the last several years due to family crises and my own health issues. When our mother’s health deteriorated at the same time that my husband’s health was in crisis, I was overwhelmed. I placed a tearful phone call to my brother in Ohio. His response was immediate, and he was here.
To my surprise and relief, lots of help poured in whenever I needed it and asked for it. Friends and professionals alike rallied around me. Meals, rides, cards and messages sustained me. Doors opened that I didn’t know existed. Others let me know my willingness to receive their help was a gift to them. What? Isn’t that backwards? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive? Apparently not. They are of equal worth.
I saw too many situations in which help was rejected during my years of ministry. Stubbornness and pride got in the way when help was offered. When the inevitable crisis occurred, there was anger and resentment. It was very sad.
Conversely, there were moments of pure grace. A congregation member I greatly admired turned 90, and her five children and their families gathered to celebrate. After the gifts were opened, she said, “Now I have a gift for all of you.” She rose to get her purse. Confused looks were all around.
She returned to her seat, pulled her car keys out of her purse and handed them to her oldest son. “I know all of you have been worrying about my driving, and I don’t want to do that to you,” she said. Tears and hugs flowed around the circle of love and support.
Relationships in community are strengthened by the giving and receiving of help. If one side sees itself as self-satisfied givers only, it sets up an unequal dynamic, a hierarchy of power and privilege that undermines what it is trying to do. Plus, it is simply false. At some point, we all need help, whether we are willing to admit it or not.
I am happy with my new jar opener. It works for me most of the time. I feel happy when a lid gives way. There are still times when I need my brother’s help with lids. I suspect I will always need his help. That’s a good thing.
There is dignity in being able to open one’s own jars. There is dignity in asking for help to open them.