Asking For Help is Hard

Saturday night I was stuck at the Philadelphia airport, due to fog. I was coming back home from a whirlwind overnight trip to Lancaster PA, where I had keynoted the annual Winterfest teen and young adult conference for the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Synod up there, and I was tired.

In the last 36 hours, I had been on two planes, four trains, been in three different cars, had probably 30 conversations and keynoted a high-energy talk in front of 500 teenagers. And was looking at two more plane trips before I get home. So I was tired.

“…And miles to go before I sleep.”

Then the nice lady at the airport told me I was not going to make my connecting flight, so I could choose to be stuck in Philadelphia, or be stuck in Chicago. Either way, I was not going to make it home tonight.

I put this on instagram:

My evening accommodations.

A photo posted by Hugh Hollowell (@hughlh) on

Now here is the thing: I was exhausted. So, so tired. And other than Raleigh or Memphis (where my family lives nearby), there is perhaps no better city in the US for me to be stranded in than Philadelphia – I know maybe 30 people who live there, and 5 of them are really good friends of mine. All I have to do is pick up the phone and ask, and any of them would be happy to let me stay there overnight.

But I wasn’t going to do that – instead, I was going to sleep on that couch thing in the picture above.

One of my friends, Amy Yoder McLoughlin, saw my post of the picture on Facebook. I got a message:

Her: I am coming to get you – you can stay on our couch tonight.
Me: Awww. I have to be back up here crazy early – my flight leaves (hopefully) at 6:00am, so I would have to be here by 5 – I should just stay here.
Her: Nope. We will bring you back in the morning. It’s the Mennonite way.
Me: Are you sure?
Her: Be there in 20 minutes.

I would have never asked her for help, and even when she was offering the help, I was hesitant to actually take it.

And the crazy thing in all of this is, I spend most of my life helping people!

I don’t know what it is in me that makes it so hard to ask for help. But I have a feeling it isn’t just me – I know from my work that it is pervasive in our society. But I don’t understand it, even when it is me.

Do you find it hard to ask for help? Why do you think that is?

Changing is a Choice

Change.....

I have been pretty down lately. The shorter days of winter are always bad for me, but with our increased staff, constant struggles around money and an impending move, I have been feeling less and less like the street-level minister I am called to be and more and more like a non-profit executive.

And not even a good one at that.

This morning, my calendar was clear of appointments, so I walked downtown – a 20 minute walk I turned into a 45 minute one, with stops to watch squirrels and sit for a spell and stare at the creek.

While I was downtown, I stopped in at Moore Square park, a place I used to walk through several times a day, but which I haven’t actually set foot in for more than a month. Having a building and a hospitality house changed Love Wins, for sure, but it has changed my life even more.

The most noticeable change is my shoes. I used to have to buy a new pair every four months. I have worn the same pair now for almost two years. The extra 30 pounds on my butt tell the same story, in a far more critical way.

I wandered over to the transit station and started running into folks I know – some of whom I haven’t seen in months. Hugs galore, and a line – a line! – formed to chat with me. And at the end of the line was Mickey.

Mickey wandered into Love Wins Ministries back in March, looking for a pair of shoes for work. She needed those shoes, or more accurately, the job she could get with those shoes, to keep her bed at the Rescue Mission that was needed to keep her sobriety.

So, of course, we bought her some shoes.

Since then, she has become an important part of our community, volunteering around the Hospitality House, cleaning and trying to keep a semblance of order in the wake of 75 folks a day worth of mess.

Even though I see her several times a week, it been a while since we chatted. So she sat down and we talked. Or rather, she talked and I listened.

We revisited her past. Her two kids that are being raised by family, her history of drug use and the cross-country crime spree that involved hot checks and a stolen car. We talked about how she wishes she could go home to Missouri, but also all the reasons that would be a bad idea.

But mostly, she talked about how much she had screwed things up, and how much she regretted her past. And how she could not bring herself to forgive herself for the way she had mucked up her life.

So, I did that thing I do. I told her we are not the worst thing we ever did. That it is never too late to be what we were meant to be. That we can change.

We hugged, and she said she would be by the building later, and she got on the bus and I went to the coffee shop to write and get caught up on email.

And it hit me. I had been talking to her, but I was really talking to me. I don’t like how my life is right now, but I can change. It is never too late. My past is a reference point, not a resting place, and I am not defined by my current reality.

As a result, I will be changing a few things. I mean, I work with a world class team of employees now, so there is zero reason for me to be at the office all the time.

So, I will be spending more time in the field, working on the streets with folks who live on the streets, instead of waiting for them to come to me. I will be writing more in coffee shops and less sitting at my desk. I am going to start walking to work again, and start spending time building my street network back up. Not necessarily because they need it, but because I do.

Because I need to change. And it’s a choice.