At the end of November 2011 I learned two terms I’d never heard before: “irritable uterus” and “wimpy white boy.” Irritable uterus leads to 37-week C section. 37-week C section leads to “wimpy white boy” spending ten days in the special care nursery two hours away from home.
Ten days in the special care nursery two hours away from home leads to…well, a family situation nobody was prepared for. Christian was trying to work–because he couldn’t take time off while I was gone and be there to help when we got home as well–and keep the kids’ anticipation of Advent activities. And clean. And cook. And grocery shop. And oh yes, prepare the choir for Christmas.
Thank God, he didn’t have to do it by himself. As it turned out, the ranks mobilized. My parents. My sister. Friends took turns watching kids, too, so Christian could work and grocery shop and meet choir obligations. People brought food. Cleaned the house. Took care of school transport. At my end, once I was officially checked out of the hospital, people brought food to save me from beggaring myself in the hospital cafeteria.
It was a humbling experience. We had always been sticklers about thank you notes, but it was soon clear that there was no way we were going to be able to keep track of who we owed thank you notes to, much less get them written. And I realized that if the tables had been turned, I wouldn’t have been at all worried about receiving a thank you note.
As long as we’re alive, there will be unpleasant or difficult situations forced upon us. Like Simon, impressed into service to carry a cross up to Golgotha. It’s good for us to be reminded that even Jesus didn’t get to Calvary all by himself. He needed help to carry the cross.
Then again, did he, really? Isn’t this more like it was in the desert, at the beginning of his ministry, when the devil tried to get him to use his divinity to his own advantage? Jesus could have thrown himself down and required the angels to save him. Likewise on the way of the cross, he could have played the God card to get him to the top of the hill. But that would sort of defeat the purpose. Because his human frailty, which made hade him need help, serves to remind us that we don’t have to carry our burdens alone, either. In fact, we can’t carry them alone.
The idea of rugged individualism sounds great, but the reality is that we need each other. Especially when those tough times come calling, and we’re faced with situations nobody should have to handle. Think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook or Katrina. Stories of heroism come out of the worst tragedies and the ugliest realities of human existence.
We need each other. That’s what Jesus teaches us in this station. We need each other, and when we are willing not only to give with grace, but to accept what others give, that is when humanity shines brightest.