Earlier this year, I sat down with a book my mom had left at my house. I’d let it gather dust for a few months, distracted by the chaos of life with four children and my perpetual quest, in typical oldest child fashion, to just get things done, without a pause to read a book, take a break, or—God forbid—ask for help.
Finally, in a moment of feeling overwhelmed by life’s turbulence, and isolated by my own obsession with self-reliance, the dusty book—Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse—caught my eye. I picked it up, opened it to a random page, and found this line: “‘What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?’ asked the boy. ‘Help,’ said the horse.”
Ah, yes. Help.
While yesterday’s readings are all about justice, they’re also squarely focused on help—a curious connection. Moses needed Aaron and Hur’s help to sustain his strength. The psalmist reminds us that our “help comes from the Lord.” The gospel focuses on the necessity of relying upon God’s help and graciousness.
And truly, through the storms of my personal life, and in my justice work, “help” has been an essential word. We are not made to walk through life—or to walk the path of justice—alone. In our culture that often isolates us from one another and makes autonomy and self-reliance an idol, “help” is quite brave. It leads us to interconnectedness, to community, to love. It invites others to help us see the path forward, one step at a time toward the world we wish to live in—one that is deeper, kinder, and more just for each of us.
As I read the rest of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, a second passage captured my heart: “‘Sometimes I feel lost,’ said the boy. ‘Me too,’ said the mole, ‘but we love you, and love brings you home.’”
And that is where “help” can lead us—to God’s love, to the love of friendship and community, to home—the world we dream of as people of faith and justice.
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.