My husband, John, recently trimmed our giant weeping willow in the back yard. Everything went well until he climbed waaaay up to cut one last branch. He couldn’t cut all the way through because of the height of the limb and the awkward angle. He tried three different saws and finally had to leave it hanging by a thread.
The next night after work he tried again. He climbed and sawed, worked and worked, huffed and puffed with all three saws until dark, and the limb refused to be disengaged from the tree.
Last night he was at it again. Armed with new saw blades and renewed determination, he ascended the ladder. The sound of serrated teeth chewing through wood inspired hope, but alas, the saw dust piled up as his energy waned. It wasn’t long before he climbed back down, muttering and shaking his head. In a last-ditch effort, he attached a rope to the branch and pulled and pulled. We heard the crunchy sound of ripping wood, but still, the limb hung on.
About that time, three little words our neighbor called over the fence changed everything.
John raised his head and saw our neighbor and his buddy coming through the back gate. They listened sympathetically as he recounted his failed attempts to separate the branch from the tree. The neighbor ran back home to get his magic this-thing-will-cut-through-anything saw and handed it up to his comrade on the ladder. He sawed and sawed, cursed the inadequate height of the ladder and climbed back down. The three of them brainstormed ideas and came up with a plan. The neighbor ran home again and returned with a rope and harness. He rigged up his best friend, who turned his ball cap around on his head as he narrowed his eyes at his bark-covered target. Game on.
My husband steadied the ladder. The neighbor manned the rope attached to the limb. The fearless friend at the top of the ladder attached the harness to the limb behind him–just in case. In the fading light, he stood on the top rung of the ladder with one arm wrapped around the tree for support and cut away. I held my breath.
Moments later, the branch hit the ground. The tension in the air dissipated as a brief celebration broke out. Then, the hero climbed down the ladder. The neighbor packed up his saw, his rope, his harness and went home. John put away his ladder and saws, closed the garage door and came in to wash up for supper. For the first time in days, he had a smile on his face.
What three little words did our neighbor call over the fence? Just the three most encouraging words my husband could have heard at that moment.
The next time you see someone struggling, make their day by calling out those three little words: “Need some help?”