I read a story once about a man who caught a caterpillar and put it in a jar with some twigs and leaves. Eventually, as caterpillars do, it made a cocoon around itself. The man watched it as the weeks went by, then one day he noticed a crack in the cocoon. He kept watching it each day, noticing a little progress now and then. At one point the encased butterfly had it legs out through the crack, but after a couple of days more, there seemed to be no further progress. The man couldn’t bear the thought of this butterfly not getting free. He thought about it and came up with an idea. He gently lifted the cocoon out of the jar. Then he found a small sharp knife. Carefully he nipped at the opening in the cocoon until he was able to pull it open with his fingernails. The butterfly crawled out. But.. something wasn’t right. The butterfly did not unfurl its wings and take to flight! Instead, the wings were damp and withered. The butterfly was forever crippled.
You see, the cocoon was designed to be hard to break out of. The struggle required would wipe away the excess moisture and strengthen the tiny muscles of the wings. This was necessary for the wings to unfurl and become strong enough to take the butterfly to the wind.
In trying to help, the man, not understanding, had taken away the only chance that butterfly had to become what it was meant to be.
I can relate this story to many times in our human lives. There are times we need to struggle in order to learn something new and useful, or to become an adult, or even to heal a bad injury. But, unlike the butterfly we don’t do these things alone. Usually there is someone to help us, a parent, a teacher, a doctor. The key is to know how much to help, and when to let a person help themselves.
Some things we can not do for ourselves at all. When we are infants we can’t even feed ourselves. In the case of breastfeeding, it is an exercise that requires two participants. The mother must make her breast available, but the baby must take the nipple into his mouth and learn to suck. He has to do this on his own, and is born with the instinct to root and suck.
Once that baby is a child, there are various degrees of responsibility that he learns, and the parent must let him own that responsibility and reap the reward or suffer the consequence.
This world is full of needy people. Some can’t help it. Some have made unfortunate choices, and some just don’t want to try. We can’t apply the same reason to each of them. They each have their own story.
If we are to become a peaceful world, we have to learn when to help and when to let go. If someone is starving, you can’t teach them anything at that moment. They just need to eat and gain strength. Once they have strength, we can’t just walk away and let it go at that. They have to be able to take care of themselves, but you don’t just put a fishing pole in someone’s hands and tell them to fish. You have to teach them how to use the pole, teach them how to attract the fish. They need to learn how to clean the fish and how to cook it. Once they have the knowledge and the tools, they can then take care of themselves.
So, who is responsible for doing these things? Why didn’t their parents teach them how to take care of themselves? There are so many answers to these questions. Not all the answers are correct.
Many people will quote the bible and say ” I am not my brother’s keeper”. I would like to remind anyone who wants to say this that it was the murderer who said it first. The truth is, we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters of this planet.
Those who are fortunate enough to have, must be gracious enough to help. To help in the best way possible, which does not mean to enable.
The world we live in is full of poverty. Every city has its homeless, but financial poverty isn’t the only kind of poverty there is. There is emotional and spiritual poverty. The thing is, there doesn’t have to be any of this! There are so many ways to help each other.
Even if you are just getting by in your life, you can probably spare a little time each week or month to do volunteer work in a food pantry, nursing home, hospital, hospice, or shelter. There are many kinds of shelters that need help. The first one you may think of is a homeless shelter. But there are shelters for battered women and run away kids, and they need people to spend time with their clients. Doing this kind of work won’t cost you a dime except for the gas or bus fare to get there.
You say that in order to just get by, you are already working two maybe three jobs? Ok, you can still help someone. Don’t throw away your old stuff! Give your clothes to Goodwill, call the DAV or Salvation Army to pick up your other cast offs. These things will be cleaned up and sold at low-cost to those who don’t have much to spend on clothes or items for the household.
You can help people you don’t even know just by giving the idea a little thought, and then following up.
When I had a job, I would give a couple of bucks to a man or woman on the street holding a sign asking for anything. I didn’t mind, and I didn’t concern myself with what they might do with the money. It was a couple of bucks, not a fortune. I know there are people in place to help them with finding shelter and getting medical help. The way I see it, they were out there on that particular day because they were hungry. One meal each evening at the homeless shelter is just not enough food. And, some of these people who I would see out there had once held good jobs, like me. I don’t know their story, but I know their need. That is all I need to know to help them.
I can’t tell you how many times in my life that I needed some help. Sometimes I just needed to be shown how to help myself, and sometimes I needed something done for me or given to me. Right now, my elderly parents are giving me shelter. My son is paying for my medication and doctor visits. My lawyer is waiting to get paid until Social Security approves my claim. My friends call me and make sure I am ok. My church has helped with my car insurance. The larger society is helping me by making funds available to SNAP so that I can eat. I am using my dad’s laptop to write this blog. I also use it for my online business to try to earn enough money to take care of some of these things on my own. How many of you who are reading this have needed some kind of help in your life, at some time?
I realize this rough patch in my life is happening for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is yet, I hope it is to prepare me for something better than what I had. No one is going to be able to answer this question, and no one is going to be able to help me figure out what I need to do with the rest of my life. I have to find that out on my own, so perhaps this period of my life is helping me to do that.
The more I push against the cocoon, the stronger my wings will become, and one day soon… I will fly.
You are invited and encouraged to leave a comment about this article. I welcome your response!