The Difficulty of Accepting Help

This summer I learned how to accept help without embarrassment or shame.

Lesson One occurred when I fell downstairs on a ship and sprained my ankle, among other injuries.

When I came home with my bandages and wraps, my octogenarian neighbor Wanda was picking up sticks in her yard. That very afternoon, she came over with her pocket hose and garden gloves to work in my yard. My expressions of gratitude masked an inner discomfort. I laughed at myself; I thought maybe it was a case of “I want to play in my garden! I don’t wanna share!”

But the emotion returned later when a friend cleaned my house, which made no sense. I don’t cherish the task of scrubbing the bathroom!

So what was it?

I felt uncomfortable because I couldn’t do anything.

What a surprise! I’ve never considered myself one of those fiercely independent people who do what they want and don’t ask for anyone’s advice. In fact, I grew up in a neighborhood full of summer cottages, so I enjoyed the free advice of experienced, interested retirees. If I wanted to try dumb schemes with peers, I had to pedal my bike several miles to see their house!

But I digress.

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that if I needed help, I should pay in kind or in cash.  Thanking someone isn’t enough; I’ll be a miserable debtor who “owes” someone a favor in kind.

If Lesson One was the sprain, Lesson Two was the car accident a few weeks ago. It didn’t hurt me physically, but I’m dependent on others for transportation during the two weeks it’s in the shop.  My bachelor brother took half a day of vacation to take me on errands. A former colleague gave me a lift when she saw me walking to work.

Riding in the passenger seat, I realized that being grateful was enough. My brother clearly enjoyed our morning together, and my former co-worker was happy to help me. If I were apologetic to him or refused her ride, I would have gained nothing. In fact, I would have been behaving like a jerk.