I tend to be a very independent person. I was raised by a single parent and learned how to do for myself at a very young age. My mom not only worked full time but suffered with a physical disability that often left her with limited mobility. I can remember when I was 7 years old I would tie her shoelaces because her knuckles were so swollen she couldn’t do it herself. A couple of years later she had such pain in her elbows she couldn’t lift a pitcher of milk. My brother and I lifted the heavy stuff, put any “assembly required” items together and did whatever mom couldn’t manage. From the age of 10 on I was in charge of “stirring”, that is mixing all batters, sauces and doughs that mom wanted to make because she didn’t have the strength in her hands to do it herself. I learned early on that I was strong enough, and capable enough, to do it for myself.
Now my mom lives with me and my children and I have always been in charge of loosening jar lids, lifting the heavy things and “others duties as assigned”. My mixing skills are no longer required since mom bought herself a very nice mixer but I still get to lick the beaters. I have always been the one to give help but in the last 4 years, since the kids’ father left, and more recently in the last 6 months since I have had some health problems, I have had to learn how to accept help – financially, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Allowing people to help me has proven to be more challenging than I ever would have thought.
I can easily accept help from my mom. My brother, although he lives 4 hours away, is one of my greatest sources of support. He offers an empathetic ear, solid advice (sometimes it’s even solicited) and is one of the most sincere people I’ve ever known. I am truly blessed to have him, he’s not only my brother, he’s one of my dearest friends. Accepting help from these two is easy, all the give and take is done with a great deal of love, affection and appreciation. But what about accepting help from sources outside of the family? What about taking aid from church groups, community groups, school faculty? This is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people and isn’t always encouraged in our culture. Sometimes accepting help is seen as a weakness in our society, we seem to revere the lone wolf types who manage to do everything on their own, but that’s rarely, if ever, possible. We are, after all, social creatures.
Allowing other people to help you is a very humbling experience, but also a very rewarding one. When my ex-husband first left I suffered a breakdown and was only able to work part time. A very loving, wonderful, generous group of people from my church paid my mortgage for a year so that I could keep my house. I cannot tell you how amazing I think these people are. Since then I have accepted help from church groups, school groups, teachers, social workers, counselors, doctors, friends, family and community groups. I can’t say that every experience has been as wonderful as the one mentioned above but I have learned a lot about myself and the people around me.
I’ve learned that trusting people is hard but more often than not it’s worth the effort. I’ve learned that not everyone can help you the way you want to be helped but most people will try to help you the way you need to be helped – and there is a difference. I’ve learned that not all help is helpful and some of it can be damaging and I’ve learned to not accept any more help from those people.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about receiving help from others is that, in many cases, you’re also helping them. By allowing other people to bless you, to use their talents, their gifts, their knowledge, their experience, their resources to help you through a hard time you are allowing them to be the best they can be – the person they’ve always wanted to be.
So, open up that door, allow someone across the threshold and choose to let them help you. Choose wisely, choose what will be the best fit for your family but choose – you have everything to gain..
please note: For anyone in the London, Ontario area there is a parenting conference this weekend, Together Strong, being presented jointly by Parents for Children’s Mental Health and the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention. Come out if you’re able to make it.
Also, please see my Glossary & Resources page for links to various services in Ontario and Canada.