Someone reminded me recently that Thoreau’s aunt paid his taxes so that he could live the life he dreamed of out in his cabin at Walden.Plus, he built the cabin on his friend’s land.

This is awesome. 

Now, I’m not one for mooches, and goodness know that I really struggle with asking for help, but there’s something beautiful and true about Thoreau’s aunt supporting him in this way.  After all, it’s not really her sacrifice and support that we remember – it’s his vision and words. Without her, we wouldn’t have one of the greatest American writers. We might have another shoemaker or farmer, important jobs yes, but not inspiring the way Thoreau was.  I wonder how many great artists and visionaries we have lost because they put self-sufficiency over their vision.*

One of the things that keeps coming to me over and over this Christmas is that God used people to fulfill God’s plan.  Surely, God could have just found a way to save the world from our choices without having to kill his own child.  (Forgive me, theologians – I always struggle with how to reconcile omnipotence with holiness and free will.)  And most certainly, God didn’t need for the Savior to be born as an infant who required the care of adults for many years.

It seems to me that God’s choice to use humans to bring about reconciliation speaks strongly of our need for each other, for each other’s help.

Here in the States, part of our cultural identity is formed by the idea of “rugged individualism,” the solitary figure out alone on the prairie to clear his land and build his cabin from the felled timbers.  We have glorified this image so much, even as we’ve forgotten that the solitary man – unless he was the most amazing human on earth – required help to even get to that prairie – a wagon maker to carry his belongings maybe, a ferrier to shoe his horse certainly. A blacksmith to forge his ax and someone to breed the cow that he used for milk. We do nothing on this earth without help.

So I admire Thoreau’s aunt for supporting him as he lived that wacky life, and I admire him for being able to put aside, at least in practicality, the idea of rugged individualism and accepting the help she gave.

I just don’t think we were made to do this on our own.  If we were, what did we need Jesus for anyway? 

How are you at accepting help? I’m terrible, for the record.  How about giving it? 

*Of course, the irony here is that Thoreau was trying to achieve self-sufficiency, the very thing he didn’t have for himself.