Stretch Out a Helping Hand
Michelangelo's Creation of Adam (Chalkboard Drawing), by Janaka Stagnaro
I want to know the meaning for stretch out a helping hand.
Thank you for your question. I am not certain if you are alluding to a particular mention of stretch out a helping hand, so I will just write about what comes to me about that expression.
When I look at the word stretch, I think about what I do in the morning with my aging body to loosen my constricting muscles. I have to consciously loosen my muscles and stretch them outward to counteract the contractive workings of time. So to stretch out a helping hand implies that to help one’s brother or sister is not habitual. Natural, yes; but not habitual. Our natural state that knows its divinity and connection to All That Is would not need to stretch to give a helping hand. It would be more of a reflex.
But we, especially in the Western world, have become very individualistic and hence very egotistical, and thus we have become very isolated unto ourselves. Rudolf Steiner talks about the evolution of Consciousness that has led us to this place of developing the individual I that, out of free will, must eventually choose to reconnect with one’s brothers and sisters and All That Is. But since we believe we are all islands it is very hard to reach out. We have this illusion of being self-sufficient. Most likely we will reach out if we judge the other as worthy to be helped, or we withhold our hand if we deem the other as unworthy.
A picture that comes to mind of stretching out a helping hand is the following. Imagine a pit where someone has fallen in and is having a hard time being in that pit, perhaps they’re kicking and screaming, or maybe they have resigned themselves to forever sitting in this depression. You come up to this person and see them down below. You can sympathize with them and jump into the pit where you will be as they are, lamenting about the world and the situation that brought you both into the pit. Or you can stand there on the ridge and tell the person to suck it up, pull up their bootstraps and just get out, for God’s sake. Or, you can kneel down, and stretch out your hand and say: You are suffering. It’s OK. I’m here if you want to take my hand.
Another picture that comes to mind is that of a looking glass. It is said that the world is nothing but a mirror. Whatever you do to the mirror it reflects back unto you. So if you stretch out your hand to help others, you need to be thankful to them, for they have given you an opportunity to help yourself. When one gets out of one’s safety cage and goes forth to connect with another there exists in that moment a union and a sense of freedom. Dan Buettner, who went around the world looking for commonalities among long-living communities, found that the more one was involved in helping in one’s community, one had a greater reason for living. One had a sense of purpose. One felt alive.
There is always someone who is “worse off” who can offer us a chance to stretch out a helping hand.