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Beholden

Beholden

From the porch I called out “Thank you again,” to the neighbors who had dropped everything to come and help us.

My husband Ray had taken a fall—or, to state it more accurately—his legs failed to hold him up, and he ended up on the floor, unhurt, in front of his big chair. I knew it was impossible for me to lift him. I began to leaf through the telephone book. Within minutes, three angels in work clothes came to our home to rescue him—and this wasn’t the first time it had happened.

As much as we needed their aid, just so much I needed their reassurances: “No problem. Glad to help.” My gratitude, you see, heartfelt though it was, was tinged with the shame of being…beholden. How many times will it take, I wondered, before their graciousness wears thin and we are regarded as a nuisance?

The truth is, if there were a bottom to the well of neighborliness, my husband and I would have reached it long before that morning almost three weeks ago. Since that day, I have been thinking about the word beholden. For most of us it is not easy to ask for the help of others. Even when we cannot avoid asking, we are likely to say to ourselves, “I don’t like to be beholden to anybody.”

The word comes from Middle English, not surprisingly, it is a form of the word “behold.” In the Bible, to behold means to look: “Behold, I bring you news of a great joy…” This makes me want to suppose that beholden carries this meaning: looked upon with favor or kindness.

Our great God keeps sending us into fellowship with one another. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are regarded kindly by friends both seen and unseen. In an old hymn there are these words: “O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.” Yes, I am wonderfully beholden to God and to others each day of my life.