TITLE: Ask Before You Act
By Charles Salmon
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Ask Before You Act
A few years ago, when I worked at a Spanish speaking Bible college on the Mexican border, I made friends with Roberto. He was a freshman student from the Yucatan Peninsula. Roberto and I had little in common and could hardly communicate across the language barrier, but I admired his devotion.
One afternoon Roberto knocked on my door to ask if he could borrow a wrench. Communication was difficult, but my best understanding was he wanted to disconnect his kitchen range for cleaning purposes. I lent him the wrench.
After he left, I began to wonder why he wanted to disconnect the range just to clean it. I walked across the campus to his apartment to investigate.
Roberto and his family lived in a second floor apartment. It was accessed only by a wrought iron spiral staircase which wound from his small front porch down to the sidewalk. By the time I arrived, Roberto and his wife had wrestled the stove out onto the porch. I rushed to their aid. Employing my poor Spanish and a lot of gestures, I instructed Roberto to pick up one side of the appliance as I hefted the other.
Together, we maneuvered the stove down the narrow staircase to the sidewalk and sat it down. In my beginner’s Spanish, I advised him to call me for help when he got ready to take the stove back up to his apartment. He never called.
It was several weeks later I learned Roberto and his wife hadn’t intended to take the stove down to the sidewalk. Until I came along, they planned to clean it on the porch. I guess they didn’t call me to help carry it back because they had enough of my well meant “help”!
Roberto and I obviously had a communication problem. It wasn’t entirely because of language, either. I assumed he needed my help and he didn’t. I could have asked and I didn’t.
We often make the same foolish assumption with handicapped folk. It might be wise to ask the wheelchair patient, “would you like a push?” before pushing them down the hall. Why not inquire of the elderly lady with the walker, “May I open that door for you?” The blind person should be queried, “Would you like to take my arm?” before grabbing him by the elbow.
The handicapped individual may or may not need help. If he does, he’ll say so. If not, he’ll appreciate the offer. Either way, he definitely needs to maintain his dignity,
autonomy, and self esteem by making the choice.
Before Jesus healed the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda, He first asked, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6 NIV.) It may have seemed like a dumb question to the crippled man, but it was his choice. Jesus clearly recognized the wisdom of asking before acting.
The next time you are tempted to rush to another’s rescue, consider asking before you act. The right to choose may be the best gift you can give.
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