I prefer the train to the car, especially for long journeys. I let myself be driven, I look at the landscape, I read, I doze, I do my mail, I also know very well how to content myself with daydreaming. The other day, I was taking advantage of a trip to see again, by the magic of the computer, an animated film of rare poetry: the King and the Bird, by Paul Grimault on a text by Jacques Prévert.
A little man of 5 or 6 years old approaches me, his comforter in his arms and says to me shyly: “Can I watch with you?” » His mother rolls her eyes: “Leave the gentleman alone…” I reassure the mother. Since the place is free next to me, I invite him to take a seat and we look at this little masterpiece together. A good quarter of an hour later the child falls asleep on my shoulder…
It seems more natural to help others
I am touched by the audacity of this little boy who dared, by playing around with conventions, to ask for something. He came towards me on tiptoe, defying accepted customs without embarrassment. How difficult it is to be simple and dare to ask someone for something!
God knows, however, that we are ready to do many things to render service. Mutual aid seems to be part of our behavior from an early age. I remember, when I was little, being ready to make a thousand efforts to bring help to those who needed it, please (with pleasure) as our Belgian neighbors say in Flemish…
But asking is something else entirely… We have been told so much that we must not bother, learn to fend for ourselves, perhaps for fear of being indebted and because after all, we can only count on oneself. Do not ask because the other would then see in us someone weak and vulnerable… It’s not very human.
“Give me a drink”, “I’m thirsty”…
In the Gospel that I am commenting on today for a group of retreatants, I realize that Jesus was not afraid to ask for help: “Give me a drink” he said to a foreign woman with whom, in principle, he did not have to speak. ” I am thirsty “, he shouted to the soldier who stood guard at the foot of the cross. “Follow me”, “I’m coming to have supper with you”, he also said to men and women who had crossed his path. Without trying to draw any moral lesson from it, I like to see the One whom I recognize as master of humanity asking others to better help him to live.
To be human is always to form an alliance, to enter into an encounter. Daring to ask makes us enter into the essential of life which is to be in relation. To dare to ask is to decide to get out of the illusions we have about ourselves and become what we really are, interdependent beings. Audacity then leads to exchanges that strengthen ties: “I ask you, you help me, and tomorrow I will be there for you if you need me. » To ask is to make the other exist.
Let the other watch over me
But we are complicated! “To be for others the one who devotes himself, who does not spare his effort, yes, one must strive for it with all one’s strength, wrote Madeleine Delbrêl in her time; but if we want at the same time to be the one who is self-sufficient both in practical life and in the pains and difficulties of a Christian life, something in us will remain dangerously large. » Dare to ask: we won’t get by without it.
It’s back to school. It will be difficult for many people. This is perhaps the favorable moment to recognize that we will move forward together and only together, to dare to wave to each other, ask for help and offer it to others. To dare to ask someone for something is to believe that the other will watch over us in one way or another. And that’s probably why the little man on the train was not afraid to fall asleep: only those who dare to ask can fall asleep in peace.
Raphael Buyse is a priest of the diocese of Lille. He is the author ofOtherwise, God and D’Otherwise, the gospel (Bayard) and Only fools can be wise (Salvator).