There was a fascinating and ultimately heartwarming story in the news this week about a black bear cub that almost died from having a plastic jar stuck on it head (see the attached picture–do an internet search for “jarhead bear” to read the whole story). The cub, along with its mother and a sibling, were foraging through trash in a local dump near Weirsdale, Florida when it stuck its head in a plastic jar which became stuck on his head, thus earning him the name “jarhead.” Neither the cub, nor the mother, were able to rid the cub of the jar. Local Department of Natural Resource experts knew that if they were not able to catch the cub and remove the jar, he would soon die from starvation or dehydration. Numerous sightings by the public led to an all out effort by the DNR to try and save this cub. Their efforts were resisted though by the mother and the cub itself, who clearly did not trust that those seeking to help had good intentions. Attempts to trap either the mother or the cub, failed. Finally, just when time was about to run out for the cub, there was a chance sighting of the bear family. Quick action allowed a DNR warden to shoot the mother with a tranquilizing dart, which in turn allowed the warden to scoop up the cub and remove the plastic jar from his head. Even in his physically depleted state the cub put up quite a fight, but in the end the jug was removed, and the family was released into a less populated area.
You and I have the capacity to be jarheads as well. There are several different ways I could go with this story (such as the danger of sticking our noses where they don’t belong,) but the point I’d like to lift up has to do with how stubbornly self-sufficient any of us can be when we, or someone we love, needs help. In the case of the bear, both the cub and the mother strongly resisted anyone who tried to help them. You and I have the capacity to push others away when we are in need of help, even when doing so will certainly prolong and even magnify our suffering.
Here are just a few examples of how any of us can be a jarhead: a person loses their job, but is embarrassed to let others know and so they isolate from friends and family; a new parent is overwhelmed with stress and feels totally inadequate as a parent, but also chooses to hide this from everyone for fear of judgment; a spouse is hurting, but instead of talking to their spouse about what they are going through, they push their spouse away by becoming irritable and critical; a person is worried that they are developing an addiction, but do their best to hide it from friends, coworkers and family–and other family members are doing all they can to deny the condition and block anyone’s efforts to help. In each of these scenarios the person who is being a “jarhead” is clearly struggling and in need of help, but is actively resisting the very support and help they need, even though their resistance both magnifies and prolongs their suffering. So what are we to do? Are we to buy a tranquilizer gun and shoot a dart at people we are close to who need our help, but are actively resisting us?! I don’t think so. The lessons to me from this story are twofold.
First, if I’m in the role of the person who is trying to render help, I need to persevere with patience waiting for the right opportunity to offer help. This can only happen according to the other person’s needs and time frame, and not my own. Secondly, if I’m in the role of the person who is hurting and and in need help, I need to remember not to be a “jarhead” and to allow others to assist me much sooner rather than later. My very life may be dependent on such help!