Do You Need Help?

Being reminded of your limitations is not pleasant. It’s hard being the one who needs help. It doesn’t seem very leaderly.

And yet, it’s a blessing to be surrounded by friends and family willing support those limitations. That is good news; that is grace, indeed.

Early Friday morning a couple of weeks ago Cyndi and I noticed one of our two Pistache trees leaning against our house. I was driving home from early morning pump class at the gym and caught the non-vertical anomaly in my peripheral vision.

It had apparently rotted from the roots just below ground level. The trunk was not broken, but leaning at the surface, and there was no disturbance of the ground around it. The tree seemed somewhat stable in its lean, it wasn’t hurting the house, so we left it alone to drive to New Mexico for a family wedding.

That Sunday afternoon our friend and tree-whisperer, Miles, came over to look at the tree and give advice. He confirmed our fears. The tree was a goner. Even though the leaves were still green, its days were limited. He said we could straighten it up and stake it vertical but it would fall again someday, and it might be bigger, and it might land some something or someone we care about.

Since we are several months away from planting season we decided to leave our leaning tree the way it was for a while. At least it was throwing off shade.

And then last Wednesday night a fierce storm blew through the neighborhood. The next morning we noticed the tree was still standing, but it was now leaning a different direction, against the porch. It seemed more unstable than before. It was time to take it down.

Remarkably, with no regard to my personal history, in full optimism, I borrowed a chainsaw from Clark. I say all that because my experience with chainsaws is they don’t start when I am holding them. Maybe they start and work all day for you but not for me. It is a glaring hole in my man card.

So Friday afternoon, even though Clark’s saw was almost new, used only once, I couldn’t get it started. I even put in a new spark plug, drained the fuel and replaced it, read the manual and followed all the steps. No joy.

My across-the-alley neighbor, Randy, saw my dilemma and loaned his electric chainsaw. I was able to start it, but smoke poured out of the motor, so I returned it before I destroyed it.

We borrowed another electric chainsaw from Cyndi’s sister, Tanya, but it was too dark to do anything safely so I decided to attack the tree the next day after my bike ride.

Saturday morning I rode a long way, getting home about noon, only to discover my tree had been cut down and the branches piled on the sidewalk near the street. Some lumberjack elves (I was going to say wood elves, but no one likes wood elves) did the job for me.

I went to eat lunch and do some writing before hauling away the tree branches. But, afterward, when I drove up to my house, there was Randy and his son pulling away. They had put all the branches in Randy’s pickup and were about to haul them off. I barely arrived in time to catch them. Randy jumped out of his truck, shook my hand, I told him thanks, and he took off to finish his good dead.

Besides being a good guy and great neighbor and the kind of friend we all hope to have, I think Randy fixed my problem partly because he felt sorry for me. Cyndi told him I was a chainsaw loser, so he took care of me.

Letting other people help you is often the hardest thing in the world. We are more comfortable giving than receiving. It is hard to accept help, even harder than admitting chainsaw incompetence.

One of the things I’ve learned these past few years is how I overrated self-sufficiency in my younger years. I used to consider it one of my best features. I liked that I could sneak through life without asking or needing much from anyone else. And while I still work hard to not be needy, I have learned the value of letting people help me. I was never as good at stuff as I thought. I need help. We must be willing to receive if we expect to know the grace of God. Only empty-handed people can understand grace.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32