Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just Ask and Just Offer

Awhile back, I did some writing for a friend of mine. More specifically, I took the notes from her birth story and prettied it up. I threw in a few five cent words and made vague illusions to dancing and sunshine. My usual.

Imagine my joy and surprise when I drove home to this a few days later:

She made this with her own talented hands and heart. She selected the ribbon with me in mind, knowing that I'm a sucker for all things mod and dotted. When I saw it hanging on my door, I clapped my hands. Who knew that delight was green?

We passed our gifts back and forth, as if tossing a football. I captured her story; she captured the season.

Both of us gave freely, doing the things that naturally bring us joy.

I wish this happened more often.

The First Step is Asking
 So often, my fears ensnare me like cobwebs. I am afraid to ask for help, because I'm afraid of putting other people out, or being a burden. I don't want to be the name that elicits an eye-roll. And so, I suck it up, and put it all on my own shoulders.

I head the "Pay it Forward" committee for a local service organization. The idea is that members request  teams to come over to help out with jobs--you know, "many hands make light work." So far, we've raked leaves, cleaned out a garage, removed a rusty play-set, and painted.

When I help my friends complete a task, it's a sacrament. When we remove the dank, brown umbrella of leaves and the green ocean of grass feels the sun once more---that's holiness. It helps me more than it helps the recipient, because I know that I am doing something important and good.

And yet---after December, we don't have anybody signed up. People don't want to appear needy, or they are afraid to let other people see their mess, or they don't know where to start.

And while some people truly don't need the services, there are others fighting their own cobwebs.

We all, myself included, need to get over ourselves, and just ask.

Just Offer

We all have gifts. Some are obvious, and some are not, but we have them. Like fireflies in a jar, we lose our light if our gifts are contained. Speak boldly and share them. If necessary, provide a trade. Sometimes, people need to give in order to receive.

Like this:

I will write one of your family stories....if you take me shopping and teach me how to find jeans that fit.

I will accompany you to a fitness class or go on a run with you....if you show me how to make Korean BBQ.

I will hold your colicky baby while you get your toes done...if you teach me how to place photographs artfully on my walls.

I will address your holiday cards....if you watch my son in the lobby while I get my eyebrows waxed.

I will ask for help....if you will allow me to help you.

How revolutionary could it be?

So tell me...what would you give? What would you ask for?


michelle said...

I love this post.

Asking for help is so hard.


Kim said...

I find it so hard to ask for help. It's not that I don't need it, I'm just afraid of bugging people. You're so right. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could trade offerings - especially the holding of my baby while I get these eyebrows waxed!!
I would write a whole book for that beautiful wreath!

Anonymous said...

I am so with you there on the decorating the walls and picking out my clothes. Totally clueless.

I would write you a song for a special occasion, make you some jewelry, address your Christmas cards, or bake homemade bread for you to help me decorate my walls or help me pick out cute and flattering clothes.

clearness said...

I would give babysitting, rocking colic babies, medical advice (not doctor advice just been there done that advice), I will lend an ear, I will do a lot of things........

Help me decorate my house and make a scrapbook of my family.

Cheryl said...

I like this whole idea of trading need for need. And that wreath is beautiful..

Muliebrity said...

You write my blog and I will comment on your blog....

Elaine A. said...

I will bake you dozens of cookies and muffins if you will redesign my blog. ("you" being anyone who is talented in that regard...)

I think we need to bring back bartering. I mean why the hell not??

I love what you and your friend did for each other. :)

Matty said...

Great idea.

I'm much like you. I don't ask for help because I don't want to put people out. I usually just find someone in the yellow pages or through referral and pay for the service.

Sort of like the barter system. I'll do this if you'll do that. No money involved.

I will write a poem about you (you being anyone) that you can permanently display on your blog. I've done them before and they appear on many a sidebar.

In return, you (being anyone) redesign or help me redesign my blog header. I have a specific idea on what I want.

Amy said...

Another awesome post. Hmmm...I could write a family Christmas letter if someone could give us some Christmas cookies.

Coby said...

I love this. I think part of my difficulty in asking for help is not wanting to impose on anyone. Oh yeah, and a little bit of pride, too.

I would gladly wash your dishes, vacuum your floors, rub your shoulders, bake for you...if you could give me a couple of hours at home alone. Or write me in to What Not to Wear.

Elise said...


Wouldnt it be great if there was a for lending hands? I have so much to give, and if I'm honest, I could use plenty of help as well.

TKW said...

"Who knew that joy was green?" Love it! I'm terrible at asking for help, but maybe I'll try to improve. You've inspired me.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I expect people to read my mind and just do what needs done.

It doesn't really work, but I still keep trying!

I have a lot to give, I'd struggle figuring out what to ask for!

Mel said...

I love this post. I love your wreath too - oh magnolia, how I miss you. I don't ask for help well, or often, due to ridiculous baggage about needing to be perfect and typical type A control freak stuff. Plus I wouldn't want anyone to see my mess either. But it sounds so simple when you break it down to I will...if you will... as we all have things we're good at and don't mind doing that we could trade and share. Thanks for getting me thinking about this.

Ash said...

"It helps me more than it helps the recipient"

It took me way too long to learn this lesson. No one wants to feel like they're taking advantage of you (well, most). I'll ask for help on certain occassions when I don't need it to "even" the score, hoping that it will put that friend at ease to ask me again. I hope that makes sense. The circle of love?

P.S. I adore dot and mod as well. LOVE the wreath. Bet you prettied up the story real nice.

only a movie said...

I love the heck out of this concept. I wish you lived in my city. xo

(Florida) Girl said...

I so get this post.

I would help make dinner for your family when you needed a break--or help balance your budget. Or help make a piece of art to hang in your living room.

I would ask for crochet lessons. Or knitting lessons. Or gardening lessons. Or just a cup of coffee.

When did I become my Mom said...

Love this.

I'm finding this to be so true these days. Too long to write about it here but I definitely get you.

And isn't the world just a better place for the getting out there and forging new relationships, or bringing new depth to old ones?

I think so...

Joann Mannix said...

What a beautiful concept, one that we should all subscribe to.

I come from an enormous family, wedged in the exact middle of my tribe. I learned to be self reliant at a very young age, survival skill. Because of that, I despise asking anything of anyone. I would rather pay someone. Isn't that terrible?

It's good to know others are in the same boat.

I would write you a fairy tale, if you would do my laundry or clean out my attic.

Anonymous said...

I can play with your preschoolers and toddlers while you listen to my kids compare the severity of curse words or talk about computer programming.

Jenny said...

Accepting help gracefully is the hallmark of a generous spirit. It is always easier to give than to receive, but when you let the other person participate in the spirit of giving...

...sometimes that is the true giving.

OK, this is obscure.

But it's early.

And I hope you kinda/sorta get what i mean!

The Empress said...

Ok, here goes:

you come teach me how to organize my house, and I will cook your family a meal that will knock your socks off.

I promise.

The Empress said...

oooh, and I'll take that song that Alisha Jaybird is offering...

Marla said...

I wish we were neighbors. I truly do.

I would give a homeless woman a place to rest and be restored. I would ask for her story to be told so that others, like myself, might learn.