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The Congregational Church of West Medford is now doing business as Sanctuary UCC.

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Life-Alert-Turtle-CopyYou know the commercial right? Unintentionally campy and overly dramatic (although it is a pretty dramatic thing when one is unable to get off the floor after having fallen, either because of age or disability) the 1989 advertisement for a medical alert provider includes a somewhat pitiful scene with an elderly woman and her walker strew across the floor of her bathroom. She pushes the magic button and calls out from right where she lay—”Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” The magic call-out takes us right to the heart of the busy operations center where a neatly uniformed fixer (aka: the dispatcher), replete with a shiny badge and great hair, earnestly and promptly responds, “We’re sending help immediately, Mrs. Fletcher”!

Mrs. Fletcher’s plea quickly became a punchline for many a comedian and late night talk show host in those days—and it remains a catchphrase that has woven its way into our culture. In fact the phrase is now a registered trademark of LifeAlert System, a later iteration of the product first advertised. It is a certainly a staple in my own vernacular, a meme if you will, that provides me with a one-liner that speaks to those moments when I feel like I just cannot ‘buck-up’ or take on one more thing. We all have moments like that—when the stuff of life, family, or work seems to overwhelm our capacity to carry on or even act-as-if. And like it did with Mrs. Fletcher, it helps to call it out—to speak into the universe the plea for help, the momentary sense of powerlessness we experience when alone, we think that we have fallen and cannot get up.

And don’t we wish that our help were as close as the magic button Mrs. Fletcher presses, as responsive and sincere as that kind and caring dispatcher, as simple to reach as just speaking our need into the universe? Don’t we wish there was someone always listening, always available, always present who could immediately (even officially) reassure us when we are afraid and lying on the floor of our spirits. Don’t we wish there was a fixer who could hold the stuff that makes us ache, who could carry the load when we are not able, who could breathe relief into the brokenness of our hearts, who could heal the falls we encounter—especially when we feel like we can’t get up.

Of course, beloved, there is. Just say the word.“Jesus, I have fallen, and I can’t get up.”  “I’m sending help immediately, Rev. Wendy.”

May it be so.

With thanksgiving,
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade (

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