A little help from my friends
July 30, 2014 § 4 Comments
Sometimes I wonder where we got the idea that we all have to be so independent, so self-sufficient. That asking for help is a sign of weakness, or a deficit of some sort.
I’m guilty of this myself – ask me for help and I’ll jump in with both feet, do whatever it is you need, or find you the right person to help you if I can’t. I’ve even been known to help people with stuff they didn’t know they needed help with, before they needed the help. Yes, yes, I know that’s called interfering… I’m working on my saviour complex, I promise.
When I have a problem, though, my default setting is to try and fix it myself. Or it was, until my very wise coach and mentor, Judy Klipin, put it like this: “Letting people help you is letting them love you.”
I liked the sound of that. So I’ve started asking for help in big and small ways from people, and it’s been an astonishing journey.
Because I think that what many of us have lost, especially in the big cities, is a sense of community. Certainly I don’t pop next door for a cup of sugar anymore the way we did when I was growing up. I’m ashamed to say I barely know my neighbours. I haven’t made full use of my ‘village’ to raise my children – I pay babysitters or cart my kids along with me, or just stay home.
Learning to ask for help has opened my eyes to the community of people I have around me who are more than happy to do something for someone else, including the someone else that is me.
But the second thing I’ve learnt, is this: no-one expects me to do something equal in return. I think that’s a misconception many of us have: that if you give my child a lift home from school today, I must do the same for you as soon as possible so that the balance sheet is restored; so that no-one feels beholden.
No. That’s simply not true. Instead there’s a tacit swings-and-roundabouts understanding: that someday, somewhere down the line, you’ll need my help with something, and I’ll offer it, not because I owe you, but because that’s what decent human beings do.
Our community might not be the people on our block anymore – our networks are more scattered, often virtual, and they rise above the physical, geographic boundaries of walls, and towns, highways and byways. But that community is still there, and it’s ready to spring into action.
All we have to do, is ask.