The outstretched hand caught my eye immediately. I'd fallen on the sidewalk, having tripped on a curb. A hand was there, ready to help. Then, a warm smile and, "Are you OK?"
I was OK. I'd fallen on my hands and knees, and I was fine. But I loved seeing that hand reaching toward me. The woman helped me up, made sure I was all right, and we both went on our way.
As I remembered this incident during the next few days, it became a symbol of the significance of helping one another. In the grand scheme of things, such help may often seem small, but at the moment it's needed, it can feel very significant.
One of my most meaningful lessons in how to help others came at the end of a week-long improvisational music workshop. At that final gathering, we each had the opportunity to perform for the other participants. A woman who was much more experienced and accomplished than I – a piano teacher who attended the workshop in order to learn new teaching techniques – invited me to improvise a piano duet with her. I'd actually been quite happy as part of the audience, watching the other students perform. My piano skills were elementary, and my confidence was low.
When she asked, though, it was almost as if she'd taken me by the hand and led me to the piano. As I plunked out a melody, she played a lovely accompaniment. Hearing that accompaniment to my melody moved me to tears. She was helping my music be beautiful – helping me play my song.
Her gesture spoke to me in a deep and significant way. At that moment she was helping me with music. But the lasting impact of that experience related to much more. I took away with me the lesson that we are each here to help one another "play our songs" – live our lives to the fullest, be the individuals whom God made us to be.
I love to think of God as the ultimate helper. This includes understanding Him as the source of all help, wherever it may come from. To me this means that the motivation one feels to aid someone is inspired by the divine helper. So the help that's given is, in a sense, God's help – divine Love's provision.
A passage from the Bible sheds light on this idea. It talks about comfort – and since help often includes comfort or has a comforting effect, this message speaks to me of help. It says that God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we in turn may be able to comfort others in any trouble of theirs and to share with them the consolation we ourselves receive from God" (II Cor. 1:3, 4, New English Bible). So receiving help or comfort from God is what actually enables us to help one another. It all comes from the same source.
My experience at the music workshop has become a touchstone for me over the years, and since that time I've often needed to recommit myself to a life that helps others "play their song." I've realized more recently that the best way I can help is through playing my own song – living in a way that glorifies God and lets my distinct God-created individuality shine. This is what will enable any of us to help others in a meaningful and needful way. And the help we give, whatever form it takes – from extending a hand to a stranger who has fallen to comforting a friend who's feeling down – is evidence of God's care for each one of us.