The Helping Hand

Last Sunday I spoke at a local church, West Hill United, and introduced their guest speaker, Chris Bovie, Community Relations Officer for Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby.

The topic for that Sunday was mental illness – not your usual Sunday banter. However, Chris appeared with a sunny smile on his face and I felt inspired in my preamble to share a story.

Having experienced mental illness first hand in my world, I remember a childhood friend who later suffered from schizophrenia, and a member of our own community falling victim to the unmedicated fallout from his own mental battle, resulting in a crime he doesn’t remember committing.  These are extreme cases, but there are an increasing number of us who experience the more societal epidemic of anxiety or depression, which is treatable by many means.

IMG-20130806-00161I likened the one who suffers to a bush I have outside my house.  Last year we spent all summer working on the backyard, landscaping and putting in a pool.  The front of our yard became neglected.  As I stepped around the house to survey the damage, I caught site of one bush in particular near the side porch which we no longer use.  My breath caught in my throat as I realized this bush could hardly be seen as it had become completely covered in a strangling vine.  I was shocked and dismayed that I had let this strangling vine take hold, and at first didn’t know what to do.

Then my mind changed from initial shame and disappointment to fixed determination.  I went out back to get my tools. As I approached the bush again, I put my tools down and sighed. This was going to require all of me to take this thing down.  I began to pull at the vine slowly at first, breaking it off in pieces.  As my mind became more determined, I pulled withIMG-20130806-00164 both hands and released that strangling vine off the bush. It took about half an hour to release it.  I felt satisfied but then realized I would have to find the source, so I walked all around that bush and when I found the root of that vine I cut it off.

That is what a person suffering alone is like – they are like the bush covered in a strangling vine who cannot see clearly.  They need someone to help them pull off that vine so they can see the light of day.


       Chris then showed a video, “Discovery, Recovery, Hope”, highlighting the stories of three teens who suffered from mental illness, who are now leading happy, productive lives.  After receiving the help they needed, one became a photographer, another healed her family relationships, and another youth enjoyed sports with his friends and helped other youths with the same problem. He could hardly remember what it was like to be in so much pain, as he had released it and learned another way.  His glowing smile and laughter made more than one audience member tear up, including me. 

Although I do not like to label people who are suffering from an affliction, I am very glad that in naming their affliction and dealing with it (as in, “devil, get thee behind me”), they are able to free themselves of its clutches.

golden_handAnother vision comes to my mind:  It is like after a long sleep, awaking and reaching up toward a great unseen precipice.  We know something good is there.  As we reach we may fear that we will fall to the depths.  But as we fall, a giant Golden Hand catches us and pulls us safely through to the other side. We land solidly on our feet and look up to where we had been.

We now have perspective, determination and speed. We can rise up to the top again using a new set of stairs, and look out past where we once were with new eyes that see.  Our determination has paid off.  And the help we needed, once elusive, has come to our rescue.  Now there is no need.  Now we can see the strangling vine on someone else, and can help them in their time of need.


These stories teach us the miracle that anything can be healed by the loving power of another, whether it be a human being listening and transforming us through their love and understanding, or a talented team of medical advisors or health practitioners with a successful treatment plan, or the unseen forces experienced as the benevolent touch of God  (or sometimes, all three.)

Sometimes, the saintly godly one sees the bush in advance, reaches out for it, and frees it quickly from what might otherwise have become impenetrable and lost. The light once unimaginable now becomes our one true reality.

And sometimes, that helping hand which once held us up and supported us, or pulled us through, becomes the hand we clasp onto in joy and gratitude, as we walk side by side on the more gentle path, and exciting journey ahead.



P.S. Do you have a healing story to share? Feel free to write to me or share your comments below.  Amen!

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