The biggest piece of advice I received as a new mom was to ask for help. Book after book recommended asking visitors to do the laundry or the dishes, help cook or clean, while I rested and held the baby.
I was the mom who invited someone over, handed her the baby, and did the dishes, because it was easier to ask for help holding the baby than help doing the dishes. Or the mom who had a friend over and visited with her for a few hours without working up the guts to say, “Can you help me please?” And then when she left, I definitely felt better for having had someone to talk to, but the dishes and other chores were still staring at me.
Why is it so hard for us to ask for help? Or perhaps I should say, easier to give help than to receive help. A fellow blogger commented on this a while ago and got me thinking. She also struggles with asking for help, and found a unique solution in a few neighbourhood kids who needed a place to hang out. Like her, I’m quite okay with helping others. I’ll volunteer to clean, cook, pull weeds, hammer nails, whatever needs doing. But asking someone else to do that for me? That’s much harder.
I enjoy posting stories of Good Samaritans—complete strangers who have helped me, even though it was out of their way or cost them time or money to do so. Yet often, those are incidences when I had no choice but to ask for help. I mean, when I’m stranded on the side of the road with no gas in my Jeep and a baby on my hip, I’m not going to say, “Oh, that’s okay, don’t bother, I don’t need your gas.” I DO!!!
Recently, my husband and I were very excited to hear there was a dance instructor starting dance classes here in our small town. The only problem was—we’d have to find someone to watch Sunshine while we were dancing. A friend of mine said no problem, and so for the past several weeks, we’ve dropped Sunshine off at her place to play with her kids for an hour or so. We keep asking her what we can do to thank her for her help, and she keeps smiling and saying it’s no problem. Sometimes I wonder why we can’t just take her at her word, why we feel the need to pay her back, make it even.
Maybe it’s because we grow up with the message that “it’s better to give than to receive.” Or maybe it’s a fear of being rejected, of not getting the help that we request. I know that, at times, I’ve wanted help but felt I had to do things myself, because even if I asked for help, I wouldn’t get it. Yet more often, I think it’s pride. We want to be strong, capable, generous. Asking for help implies weakness somehow—the admission that we need others.
And yet as I think about our life as Christians, I realize God made us to need each other, and that He created us to meet those needs. In the very beginning, Adam was alone in the garden and needed someone: Eve. That doesn’t make her his slave; they need each other, complement each other, are better together than they are alone.
In the New Testament, Paul talks about the body of Christ being like a human body, where the hands need the eyes and the mouth needs the stomach, and no Christian should be able to say to anyone else, “I don’t need you.” We all have gifts and we’re called to serve the Church with those gifts—and yet also to be willing to let others serve us with their gifts. As Jen says, “to truly live the Christian life of agape is to seek to serve others… but also to let others do the same for us.”
So I guess I’ll work on graciously accepting help when I need it… saying “thank you” with my whole heart, and using my gifts to help others as others have used their gifts to help me.