One of my favorite “Friends” episodes is when it’s pointed out to Phoebe by Joey that there are no good deeds that don’t also make us feel good. I think of it every time I get resistance from a friend to help them out, and jokingly say, “But this isn’t about you. It’s about me! You’re gifting me with an opportunity to feel good.” Then they laugh and hand over the crying baby, the broom, or the shovel, and all is well and balanced in the world again. And, yet, I’m still a “resistant receiver” myself! Why are we so willing to give, and so unwilling to let others give back?
Ever have one of those weeks when everything seems to be happening at once? Either to you or the people around you? This has been one of those weeks. I’ve had a friend who had knee surgery, a friend who sprained both ankles and broke one, and a friend who’s husband passed away from Alzheimer’s. So, what is my natural reaction when someone I love is in pain? I want to help! Each of these life events are very different. Each of them have different situations. And each of their reactions to my offers of help have given me a chance to reflect on how I can be better at offering, and accepting offers of help.
Offers of help truly are little acts of love, and deserve the same care that we would take with someone’s heart, but we don’t always treat them that way. I remember the day when one of these friends was staying with us in between moves and we were getting ready to go to two separate events. I had to be at my event earlier, and I was standing in the dining room trying to figure our how to get a child somewhere and get to my event on time. She piped up and said, “I’m ready and don’t have to be there until later. Let me me do it.” Makes sense, right? So, naturally, I said, “No. I can do it. I’ll just put my make-up on in the car.” What!? Luckily, she is a good enough friend that she just told me that was stupid, reminded me that I was giving to her in having her as a guest, and that she was happy to give back. My “busy syndrome” brain kicked off, my “give and take” balance brain kicked in, and I handed over the keys. Why was that so hard!? Why do we do this awkward dance!? We don’t have to. Luckily, and maybe because of this, when it was my turn to offer help this week, and I asked if I could bring groceries, wine and chocolate, we didn’t flail across the dance floor, and I got a gracious, “Thank you. The groceries are taken care of, but come on over with the wine and chocolate!” It really can be that simple. We can take care of one another’s gifts and hearts, and dance with ease and grace.
So, my observations of the art of offering and accepting help for givers and receivers are these:
- Don’t give up. Remind your friend of the things they have done, or would do for you.
- Offer specific help. Asking an open ended, “What can I do to help?” is a challenge for someone in need of it.
- Keep it simple. Don’t get up in their crisis grill and offer to fix everything. Just offer to be there, beside them, and to do little things as they arise.
- Start with “Thank you.” This acknowledges the offer and gives you a moment to process if there really is something they may be able to help do.
- Fight the BS. Sure, you can do it all, but do you really have to? Don’t give in to “Busy Syndrome”.
- Keep the balance. Maybe you’ve never done anything for this friend, but would you? If so, you’ll get your chance. Life happens to us all every day, so let them pay it forward.
We’re all in this together, sisters, and we need our tribe to get through it! Give and receive gently, and take care of one another’s hearts.
“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” Vera Nazarian