Almost all the help I’ve gotten in life was because I went after it. Sometimes I’ve felt like the woman who squeezed through the crowd to touch Jesus’ robe, desperate for healing and answers. Sometimes I’ve waited by the bulletin board at church, hoping someone would come show me the way out of my despair.

Recently, I tried to explain it to friends. “All my life,” I said, “I have believed that the key to my mental health and happiness was out there somewhere, if only I could find it.” They nodded knowingly. Huh, I thought, maybe I’m not the only one.

“I’ve always assumed that someone, somewhere had the answers,” I went on, “and someday I would know them, too. I still believe that, but now I know I have to hunt it down myself.”

When I finished, one friend spoke up. “Yep, I’ve always thought that sometime, some person would come along, see me in my struggle, and want to help me,” he said. “I thought they would just guide me along, show me where I needed to change.” He shook his head. “But it’s never happened.”

That realization can feel lonely. Knowing it’s all up to us can bring resentment and a victim mentality. But somehow, knowing that can also set us free.

If nobody is going to rescue me, then I had jolly well better get up, get dressed, and rescue myself. If it’s all up to me, that frees me to ask hard questions, to daringly dig for that key. Whatever my burden—grief, depression, broken relationships—I have the ability to make the first move, to ask for help.

One friend likes to ask advice after church. “Whatever I’ve been struggling with during the week, I just ask the sisters on either side me about it, whoever they are,” she said. “Child training, marriage, health, emotions, whatever. I’ve gotten such guidance over the years.”

Another friend found a recommendation for the book Switch on Your Brain. She bought it, read it, and followed its protocol, tailoring it for her particular struggle. With God’s help, she retrained her brain and found victory in that area. Was it easy? No. Did anyone offer to help? No. But she pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus’ garment.

Ask. If nothing happens, ask again. Be like that persistent widow who troubled Jesus. And of course, Jesus is with you always. Take that first step, and there’ll immediately be two sets of footprints in the sand.

Sometimes, though, just sometimes, some human does come to find you.

I was eighteen, doing closing duties after a day of waiting tables. Our church was holding revival meetings with a visiting minister from Wisconsin, where my family used to live. Since I had decided not to be a Christian, I wasn’t happy when the visiting minister appeared next to the ice cream machine I was cleaning. He had walked several miles into town from where he was staying, garbed in a suit and dress shoes, just to talk to the rebellious girl who listened to exactly zero of his sermons. As I poured tubs of hot water through the machine, not even looking at him, he asked the right questions to pierce my stony heart. For me, that day, someone came to me and held out the key.

Providing that key often means simply being available.

“I just want to be that presence in people’s lives,” a friend explained. “I want to be that auntie who’s there if they ever need me.”

In Zimbabwe, they have a special waiting place for aunties: the Friendship Bench. There is no word for depression in Shona, but Zimbabweans were suffering from kufungisisa, or thinking too much. Doctor Dixon Chibanda conceived a simple project: train local grandmothers in the basics of mental healthcare and place benches in the villages where people could share their pain with them. After finding help on the Friendship Bench, people moved on to support groups, in a program called Holding Hands Together.

I’ve heard of situations where the friends of hurting people band together and walk with them on their journey. People step forward to mentor others. Group chats exist for people suffering from broken marriages, infertility, the loss of a child. Holding Hands Together.

Maybe some of us do need professional help, but maybe we just need an auntie, someone to walk with us for a while.

If those who hurt walk toward the bench, hunting for the key, and if those who are stronger wait on the bench, holding out the key, a lot of healing can take place.

Vila Gingerich

Check out some additions to the website:

A new featured topic on Grief.

We’ve added a new book titled A Complaint Free World under the Emotional Health resources. It’s an excellent read!

Take note that there is another Hope for the Journey Conference coming up. This is what was formerly the Empowered to Connect Conference. You can register for the event through our Events tab. The webinar is available from April 14- June 30. Group pricing is available.

Remember that you can access all the Conference Care newsletters through our website. Just check the menu for the newsletter tab.

Check out the book Sensory Processing 101 by Dayna Abraham. It’s listed in our resources for Teachers, and also under the Developmental Disabilities sections.