You probably have never heard of the SS Arapahoe, but a little over one hundred years ago it made history as the first American ship to send a wireless SOS distress call. The ship had run into trouble near Diamond Shoals, off the coast of North Carolina, known then as the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” and its wireless operator used the newly adopted universal call for help. The signal was received by a wireless station on Cape Hatteras, and aid arrived in time to save the ship. A few weeks later, the SS Arapahoe got to experience the other side of the equation, when they received the second American SOS call, sent out by the SS Iroquois, and changed course to be of assistance to the troubled vessel.
As caregivers, we are very accustomed to being on the receiving end of other people’s SOS calls. We keep our antennas up all the time, tuned in to the needs of those around us, ready to give whatever help we can. That is our job, our calling, and for the most part, we love it. The difficulty comes when we find ourselves on the other side, when we ourselves are in need of help. Sometimes we find it very hard to send out that SOS. Maybe it is pride, or fear, or both. We would rather try to keep the ship afloat on our own than admit that we need help.
But none of us can do this on our own! We work in a very stressful environment, dealing with life and death situations on a daily basis, and we all have our limits. Recognizing those limits, and knowing when we need to ask for assistance from someone else, can keep us from burning out. Admitting to God and to those around us that we can’t do it all is not always easy. It takes a lot of courage to answer a distress call from someone in crisis, but sometimes it is every bit as courageous to step up and send one out.
God, please rescue us from the illusion of self-sufficiency. From the very beginning of creation, you put people together to help one another. Give us the strength to help those who need us, and the brave humility to ask for help when we need it. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent