As a student, I once volunteered at a university car wash fundraiser. We were charging $2 for a quick wash while customers did their shopping.At some point a brand-new Porsche 911 pulled into a parking space nearby and I saw my chance to break the monotony of the day by washing a truly beautiful machine. I asked the owner whether he would like to have his car washed. He kindly declined. Being persistent (and a little foolish), I said “hey, you drive a Porsche, surely you can afford a $2 car wash?” He turned and smiled and replied “because I drive a Porsche, I actually can’t afford a $2 car wash.”
It took me a while, but I learned an important lesson that day. This person knew the value of his vehicle, and he knew that while we had plenty of enthusiasm, we might have damaged the car’s paintwork with our low-quality materials and lack of finesse. He couldn’t afford to have his valuable car washed by inexperienced students with filthy, debris-filled rags and sponges.
In a way, mental wellbeing is like caring for your car. There are aspects of car care that you can handle yourself, and you may even enjoy the process. Washing and waxing, checking the tyre pressure, even changing the oil and cleaning the air filter, if you have the know-how!
But when it comes to having things like the engine and suspension checked, drained, cleaned, flushed, tightened, balanced, repaired and replaced, most will take their car to a qualified mechanic. Why? Because you can’t afford to (a) not do it, (b) expect someone unqualified to do it, or (c) do it all yourself. Each of these options has the potential to decrease the value, quality, lifespan and enjoyment of your vehicle.
Ask yourself, then, when it comes to your mental wellbeing, whether you can afford to (a) not do it, (b) expect someone unqualified to do it, or (c) do it all yourself.
Let’s get every last mile out of the metaphor: an ounce of prevention beats a pound of repairs.
Services at regular intervals will allow a good mechanic to catch problems early, while visits to the mechanic after something has gone wrong are often a much more nerve-wracking experience. On top of that, by doing the regular maintenance that is within your means, such as practising mindfulness and gratitude, giving back to your community or regular exercise, you may keep small problems from becoming big ones, or at least learn how to identify them.
On a spiritual level, Christianity has always emphasised its own kind of regular maintenance. When the apostles, like Paul, teach us to “pray without ceasing”, they are showing us a practical way to keep our spiritual health in tip-top shape. Gratitude, mindfulness, service to others and connection to creation are all ways that we can pray without ceasing.
This Mental Health Week, we’re taking the opportunity to remind all in our community of the importance of paying regular attention to our own wellbeing and spirituality. In fact, we should ask ourselves whether we can afford not to do it.
It’s OK to ask for help, in fact, sometimes it’s the right thing to do for your car and for yourself.
St Andrew’s Pastoral Care Team