A Problem You’ll Understand


Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Yes, we all have our problems. But the good news of Jesus is that there will always be at least one “someone to lean on”. And though true friends can be hard to find, sometimes help can come from people and places you would not normally expect.

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

John Lennon once said Instant Karma was gonna get you, but it can just as easily help you. It’s a two-way street. Maybe I’ve lived a charmed life, but I honestly can’t recall a single time in my life when I really needed help and couldn’t find it.

The “snow-jam” last winter in Atlanta was a testimony to folks reaching out to help others in any way they could. I-75 was a literal parking lot, with cars stranded and stuck in all lanes, rapidly running out of gas (and heat) in sub-zero temps for hours and hours. I was at home watching the news and saw where people that lived nearby were hiking out from their homes, sometimes walking miles, bringing blankets, water and food to those stuck in their cars.

Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

But it doesn’t take a natural disaster to bring the best out in our fellow man. I’ve found that if you’ll just be humble enough to ask, more times than not you’ll find people willing and even eager to lend a helping hand. And that can be tough for some of us – especially men – to do.

In this month of Thanksgiving, we all should take time out to be thankful for those we lean on for support. The greatest blessings God has bestowed on us are the human relationships in our lives.

You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Bill Withers knows firsthand what it is like to be in need. Bill was born in the rural coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, the youngest of 13 children. Bill’s father died when he was only 13 years old and at age 18, he enlisted in the Navy. It was during his nine year Navy service that Bill truly began to develop his singing and songwriting style.

After leaving the Navy, Bill took a job on the assembly line at Douglas Aircraft and was so unsure of his future in music that he refused to quit his job even as his first hit single “Ain’t No Sunshine” was hitting the charts.

If there is a load
You have to bear that you can’t carry
I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load
If you just call me

“Lean On Me” was Bill’s biggest hit, going to #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Soul Singles charts in 1972. It was the first single off his breakthrough LP Still Bill and was ranked #205 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. It is one of only nine songs in rock history to reach #1 on the charts for two different artists; Club Nouveau also hit the top spot with their funky hip hop dance version in 1987.

Bill’s inspiration for “Lean On Me” came after he had moved to Los Angeles to further pursue his music career. He was living in a seedy, West LA apartment and thinking of how different it was and how the different the people were, too.

In a 2004 interview with Carl Wiser of Songfacts, Bill said, “(I know) it sounds idealized if you are from an environment where it’s (helping others out) not ordinarily practical to do that. But I’m from an environment where it was practical to do that.”

As an example, Bill recalled an incident from earlier days: “When I was in the Navy, I must have been about 18, 19 years old, and I was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. It was some holiday, I had this car that I was able to buy and I was driving from Pensacola, Florida up to West Virginia. As is the case with young people with cheap cars, the tires weren’t that great, so one of my tire blew out on this rural Alabama road. This guy comes walking over the hill that looked like he was right out of the movie Deliverance. Did you see that movie?”

“He says to me, ‘Oh, you had a blowout.’ Well, I didn’t have a spare tire. This guy goes walking back across the hill, and I’m not too comfortable here because I know where I am. He comes back walking with a tire, and he actually helps me put the tire on the car. My circumstance, this was not an idealized concept, this was real to me.”

“Still Bill” is still around, doing some writing and producing; mostly working with new artists to help them get a start. So, let’s all take a few minutes while we’re giving thanks this week to reflect on the simple human kindnesses that abound out there. And know that there’s always somebody out there that needs somebody to lean on.

Listen to the sweet sounds of “Still Bill” here:

Club Nouveau cover here:

My sources for this post included:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_on_Me_%28song%29

Songfacts: http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/bill_withers/


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