Community Voices: Accepting Help Is an Acquired Skill


On June 20 at 8:05 am, I was jogging/running/walking just north of the Ephraim entrance to Peninsula State Park. I had started down the hill and was wrapped in a daydream when I began to move too fast down the steep grade. 

My mind at age 75 reverted to my mind at age 18. I remember saying to myself, “I’ve got this. I’ll just speed up and run through the grade.” It soon became clear that the plan to run faster was not going to work.

At that point, I thought the best plan of action would be to keep from getting seriously hurt, so I telescoped back in time to my high school gym classes, where we were taught the old tuck-and-roll. Perhaps the last time I did a tuck-and-roll was to illustrate a children’s sermon about 20 years ago. That was then; this was now; I did not tuck as well as I used to; and I’m sure there was no roll at the end of the tuck. 

So I lay in the gravel border of Highway 42 and mentally assessed the damage. As I was assessing how much I hurt and what I might have hurt, I began to experience pain in my left arm and shoulder.

It was then, as I was assessing, that cars began to stop, and very kind and caring people began to offer their help. On more than one occasion over my lifetime, I have been judged to be obdurate. This is a fancy word that means “stubborn.” Even more accurately, it means to be stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing. 

As more and more people stopped and offered assistance, the word “ambulance” was uttered. My stubbornness elevated to a new level. I told a gentleman – one of the first on the scene – that I was all right and waved away several people who were trying to help the bullheaded jackass by the side of the road. 

Finally I persuaded most of these kind people to leave. Only one remained. He was joined by a young man who looked like a weight lifter. I asked him and my first Good Samaritan to lift me up. I could not lift my left arm or put weight on it. They got me to my feet.

I’m sure I was unsteady, but after getting a little less so, I informed all those who were still trying to help the “stubborn one” that I was OK and that I could walk to the Bethany parsonage in Ephraim, where I was staying. 

It was exactly one mile back to where I’d begun my morning workout. The Good Samaritan, who had stayed around and would not leave, walked me back to where I was staying. We talked as we walked, and I learned he was a tax attorney from Chicago. 

My memory might have been affected by the fall, the pain I was experiencing and the accompanying shock, but all of the license plates on the cars I remember seeing from my vantage point at the side of the road were from the great state of Illinois. So to all of my Good Samaritans from Illinois, thank you – that is sincere and heartfelt. I only wish I could have been more gracious to you all.

After the fall, the Fish Creek clinic couldn’t see me, so I bought a sling for my arm and a bottle of Tylenol and went home. I finally got an X-ray the next day, met with a surgeon and learned I had fractured my humerus. Prognosis: Let it heal, and see if rehab works. If it doesn’t, shoulder-replacement surgery.

I was only halfway through my Wisconsin time, but I did listen to the doctor who said I could not drive myself back to Kansas City with one arm. Friends from KC arrived and one drove my car back, with me as a passenger. My shoulder is healing, and another round of X-rays will determine what the next step will be.

I write this not as a tale of woe, but as a documentation of the stupidity of not accepting help. It is perhaps a function of old age that we think we can always do it alone, or perhaps more accurately, it is part of the human condition that requires that it is a sign of weakness if we ask for help. I am, perhaps, guilty of all of these.

Michael Brecke is the former pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in beautiful downtown Juddville.