Years ago, when I was in the midst of an impromptu solo road trip around the West Coast, I was Couchsurfing (that's a real thing!) in Vancouver, B.C. at the home of a wonderful man called Simon. Simon is a life coach and a magnificent person, and he had this knack for flipping my world upside-down in every conversation.
One night we were having dinner in his loft, and I was telling him about my upcoming flight to Puerto Rico and the generous friend, Rich, who had offered to take me to the Seattle airport at 5am a week hence. I was saying that I felt a bit guilty asking this person to get up so early and drive so far, even if he had volunteered to do so.
Simon stopped me and asked, "Jodi, how do you feel when you help someone?" I felt good, I answered. It's always nice to help. It feels great when you can do something for someone that they really appreciate
"So why would you deny someone else the opportunity to feel good?"
Shit. This is what I've since learned is called spitting in someone's soup, when you change their way of thinking such that they can't go back to how they used to think. I realized in that conversation with Simon that accepting help is, in fact, generous and gracious. Asking for or accepting offered help creates a situation for someone else to feel good. How cool is that?
So, when was the last time you asked for help? Not just with reaching something off a high shelf or grabbing something somehow out of reach, but with something that you really needed help with. Something that would have made your life better or easier had someone been there to lend a hand: a ride to the airport, moving house, child care at just the moment you needed to get some work done, clean the house, or take a f*&king break for once? Maybe more relevant - when was the last time someone offered to help you and you said no?
That person offered to help you because they wanted to help you! They wanted to ease your burden. They wanted you to know they care. They had the time/extra hands/extra food/money/that one thing that you didn't have, and they wanted to share it with you. For real.
I like thinking that each act of helping and being helped creates a bond between the people who are involved. The more acts of help, the more bonds. And unless the exchange is terribly one-sided, it doesn't really matter which way the helping goes, the bonds are created all the same.
When we moved within Corvallis, we asked a bunch of friends to help on the big day. We could have hired a moving company so as not to put out our friends, but several people had offered—and like one always does in these situations, I underestimated the amount of work. Our entire house was moved in just a couple hours (our kitchen was even unpacked at the new place!), and we had pizza and beer for everyone.
Some of the people who were there that day were people we'd met on our very first day in Corvallis; several people we barely knew, but there they were anyway! Some people stayed all day and helped set up beds so we'd have somewhere to sleep; some pitched in for an hour and went home. I felt so loved and so cared for that day, and I continue to feel a huge debt of gratitude to everyone.
Here's the weird thing I love about it: we owe all of these people a favor. They should all know that if they need help with anything, we will be there for them. We hope our friends will feel free to ask us for anything, anytime, and if we can, we are there. I like the idea that people will think of me when they need help with after school pick-up, or painting a room, or packing up and moving. That's community!
I'll be honest, it's hard to ask for help. But it's a bit easier to accept help when someone offers it, so let me make this challenge: the next time someone offers to help you with something, just say yes. Even if you can do it yourself. Heck, even if you'd prefer to do it yourself. Get practice at saying yes. Get practice at being helped. Get practice at making someone feel good because they can be useful. Get practice at building those bonds that hold us all together.