The Spirit of Helpfulness

Sometimes we have a really good experience as a customer or consumer and it really makes a difference. We want to tell others because we have had such a positive experience. Maybe our problem was solved or a solution suggested and the people involved did all in their power to help you.

Recently, I had occasion to bring our hoover to get fixed. I Googled places that did hoover repairs for the make of hoover we had and I arrived at AMC Repairs on the Holywood Road in Belfast. Upon examination, the engineer told me the machine could not be repaired. It was broken beyond fixing. This wasn’t great news to receive, but the lady was so helpful in suggesting different models as an alternative. She took a great length of time and trouble to Google each one, checking their availability in various retailers in Northern Ireland and making recommendations based on her knowledge and experience. Her knowledge was encyclopaedic and she, and her sister and her dad, who run the business, could not have been more helpful.

Even though they didn’t sell machines themselves, they offered to service our new machine when it arrived and was in need of maintenance. They suggested certain things we might do to keep it going as well as possible for as long as possible. They asked if, rather than dump the old and broken machine, they might take it and find parts off it that they could pass on to people in difficult circumstances who might not be able to afford a new machine as they did repairs. My sense as a customer was that, despite not spending any money on this visit, they just wanted to do everything they could to help me. They wanted to offer their wisdom, knowledge and advice and I know where I want to go to get the new machine serviced when the time comes.

Joe Wicks

Readers of this blog will know I have a great admiration for the fitness coach, Joe Wicks, who did PE classes for the nation during the various lockdowns of the pandemic. Last week, I watched a documentary on the BBC iPlayer about his childhood. He had a difficult time growing up with both his parents suffering from mental health problems and his Dad struggling also with drug addiction. These painful experiences have given him an incredible drive to help people with their fitness and mental health. He often records voice notes on his phone to send to individuals who are in a bad place with their mental health. It was very moving to see his genuine desire to help as many people as possible, often spending 7 or 8 hours recording these personalised messages so people don’t feel alone in their struggle.

As many people from our Church community will be aware, we are hoping to welcome a family from Ukraine to live in our local community on Thursday. The Church has acted as sponsors for this family of 5 from Mariupol. The whole process has been quite a learning curve and, while it has been slow, I’ve been very touched by how helpful people have been to us.

One of the complexities for our family is the importation of their cat, which travelled with them on their perilous journey.

I was put in touch with a most helpful man called Ron who had done something similar for the family he had welcomed. I couldn’t believe the amount of trouble he went to sending me forms, giving me the telephone numbers of various officials who had been helpful in the department of agriculture, making me aware of the steps in the process. He gave me advice about which airlines I could use and potential routes and did everything he possibly could to share his wisdom and experience. What a special thing it is to receive such helpfulness.

As I think about people like Joe Wicks reaching out to people with mental health problems, or my friends in the Hoover repair shop, or Ron and the community trying to welcome refugees from Ukraine, I wonder have they a great deal to teach the ‘church without walls’?

St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, speaks about how, when we bear one anothers burdens, we fulfil the law of Christ. Earlier today, I did some training on mental health awareness with The Church of Ireland initiative Mind Matters. It was helpful in heightening awareness of just how many people struggle with our mental health. Up to 1 in 4 adults will experience some challenges in their mental health, according to statistics. The Church is uniquely positioned, in terms of our involvement with one another through groups and organisations, to look out for one another. How can we look for those opportunities to be helpful and share something useful or positive with those who might be looking for some help or advice?

In most of the interactions I have described, I went in with low expectations wondering if someone might have answers to my queries. I left with a great deal more than I anticipated. Can we as the ‘church without walls’ exceed expectations by being exceptionally helpful and encouraging in our dealings with people?

I’m conscious of so many people who give so much, whether it’s providing a safe space to mums and toddlers and grandparents, whether it’s hosting events that bring great joy and community, like church services or meetings or organisations so many people are involved. I think of community projects, foodbanks, choirs, and the parish office, all sorts of things our parishioners are involved in as vounteers and do in Jesus’s name. Let’s think of very practical things, like praying for each other when we hear of people in distress.

Let’s seek to keep the spirit of helpfulness to the forefront of our thinking and attitudes as St. Paul encourages us to do. It’s such a transformative thing to offer to a world that is weary and exhausted. 

Looking forward to the parish picnic as we celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee this weekend.

Much love to everyone,


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