Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
"Who is your support system?" was the question put to us late in the week during continuing education at Princeton Theological Seminary. The nature of ministry (as in any helping profession) can be isolating some times. It is common to get so focused on helping others that we neglect to help ourselves sometimes. Appropriate work/life balance, regular rest and recreation, and nurturing relationships all make a big difference. We know that in a time of great crisis and tragedy one of the greatest predictors of recovery is the number of good quality relationships one has. Friends help us bounce back.
It was an interesting exercise, because really, I don't think I've ever made a list of friends and family. Why would I? Relationships just happen, right? I guess the point of the assignment was to think out how intentionally I carved out time and space in my life for people that matter. Not being a social butterfly, I was happy to note that I have a diverse group of supportive friends. I had spent time recently with many on the list. Others, I was sad to realize, I haven't kept in touch with as diligently as I should.
One of my classmates mused aloud, "Who are the people who will be at my funeral?" The words turned out to be somewhat prophetic as I returned home shortly after my brother's death. In my case, many dear friends were there at my brother's funeral to help and show support.
So who is your support group? Who are you supporting? It's worth thinking about. You don't need to be an EMT to offer "life support."
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups.