Anyone who knows me, knows that I love all things Harry Potter. One of my favorite quotes from the book series comes from The Chamber of Secrets when Albus Dumbledore tells Harry, “…help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” I love the idea that all you have to do is ask and you shall receive. Simple, right? And certainly not restricted to just Hogwarts (e.g., Matthew 7:7 — Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you)
Where I struggle is knowing when to ask for help.
For many years I felt asking for help indicated weakness, that I was not strong enough or smart enough or confident enough or whatever enough to do the task at hand.
I remember one time sitting in my office at my former university struggling with calculating an analysis of variance hypothesis test by hand in preparation for class. I just could not understand where I was making my mistake and as a professor, I thought it utterly absurd that I couldn’t figure it out. I probably wasted a good hour and when I finally did ask a colleague to look at the numbers it turned out the formula in the book had a typo and it was missing a summation sign. Duh.
Such a simple solution, you’d think I would have learned something valuable from that incident. On the spectrum of enlightenment, I was still pretty dim at the point so no, I really didn’t.
I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that I have had this problem recur in my life.
Most recently this happened last Friday when my husband and I decided to hike Haystack Mountain. Everyone in town has recommended this hike and with beautiful fall foliage and glorious sunshine we drove up the mountain to the trail and began our ascent. It wasn’t too taxing, though there was one steep section.
At the top a stone observation tower treated us to panorama views of the quaint New England town we’ve been living in for almost 6 weeks. After getting our fill of the view, we started the hike down the mountain.
We reached a point where we could turn left or right. We opted to go right. We kept going and came out at a road we were unfamiliar with and we couldn’t even GPS our location because my phone has been broken for the last four weeks and my husband’s was charging in the car.
My husband suggested we go left, so we did. Then we took another left and ended up on a street named Roughland Road (oh, the irony!).
At this point we had been hiking well over an hour since our descent and sometime later we ended up on a road which took us to the main road going into town.
We knew this location because it’s where the vet’s office is for the dogs we are taking care of in town. My husband did graciously offer for me to stay behind there while he finished the walk, but to paraphrase Kate Winslet’s character from Titanic, I told him, “You walk, I walk.” Except we weren’t very close to the mountain – about two miles away and then we would have to climb back up the mountain to where we parked the car.
So we continued on, and every empty bottle we encountered on the side of the road seemed to taunt me (that’s right, we didn’t have water either). After 10 minutes or so I would take off my sweater because I would get too hot then a few minutes later I would have to put it back on because I got too cold.
Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, our circumstances were not dire. But I was tired, having worked at the café that day, and I had been utterly unprepared for such a walk. For some reason, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. I didn’t ask my husband, I didn’t ask God, I didn’t try to wave down anyone in their car. I just kept going.
Then all of a sudden, a minivan veered off the side of the ride and headed right towards us. I thought we were going to get hit, but it went around us and out jumped a young man. The minivan was a taxi. Oh my gosh, we’re saved! I thought. And then the taxi pulled away as my husband and I tried to chase him down to give us a ride. But he kept on going and the young man explained he was a medical taxi and could only be paid through insurance.
Disappointing, yes, but it was just what I needed to let me know that I did, in fact, want help. I didn’t know who could save us or how, but I wanted help. I kept hoping someone we knew would drive by and sure enough less than five minutes later a regular from the café saw us on the side of the road and pulled over. I had never been so happy to get in a car.
Our rescuer drove us to our car and as we made our way there, my husband and I realized we would have been walking for another two to two-and-a-half hours if we had not gotten a ride. So thank you, Jon, for your awesome timing and kindness.
My only regret about the situation (other than fantasizing about pushing my husband out into the road as we were walking, which I later apologized for thinking about), was waiting for so long to ask for help.
Hopefully, I have finally learned my lesson.
Because honestly, if something is advised by Jesus and Albus Dumbledore, then shouldn’t that be good enough for me?