A little while ago I got a lovely note from a friend who is battling breast cancer. It was a note of thanks to a group of helpers and it was posted through a website called “Lotsa Helping Hands.” For the last few months I’ve been really impressed with how the site functions in terms of its pure utilitarian value. My friend or her liaison post a series of needs on a calendar and an email goes out to anyone registered to the site indicating that needs have been posted prompting site registrants to see if they can fill any of those needs.
In my “ethical will” posting my advice to my children was to be givers but sometimes to be takers. Somewhat counter-intuitively, being a taker is often harder than being a giver. At, least that’s the way it’s always been for me. Learning to be a taker has taken me a long time. Back when my children were tiny, it seemed that one of them was always sick. My husband worked insane hours and I had no local family support. From time to time I needed something as simple as milk or juice from the store or a prescription from the local pharmacy. This was back in the days before food and prescription delivery became common. I had friends who offered their help but my first, kneejerk response was always “no.” My first thought was that I would figure out a way to do things myself and thinking back, I regret that I didn’t accept their help as graciously as it was offered.
I think the head fake here is that by allowing people to render care, you are actually doing a kindness for them because most people genuinely enjoy being helpful. It makes them feel good. I’m no saint. Trust me. I don’t travel to third world countries offering to take care of underprivileged populations but I’m happy help locally in my own small way. The truth is, being a giver feels good. It makes me feel good and I see that it makes my kids feel good as well. What has always felt unnatural to me is being a taker, either accepting help or admitting that I need help.
That brings me back to my friend and Lotsa Helping Hands. Sometimes it’s ok to be the vulnerable one. Sometimes you need to fall back and let your community wrap its arms around you. It’s not weakness, it’s just the “way of things” and unfortunately we’ll all have our turn to be in the needy spot.
And, that’s why I told my sons to be givers, but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to do something even harder. Be takers.