Last month, I was having a pretty rough go of things: My husband was out of town for an extended period, leaving me solo parenting three sick children while I fought a terrible cold that left me feeling exhausted and desperate for rest. Almost immediately after my husband returned from across the country, he came down with the flu—the serious strain that included complications—and was bedridden and quarantined for days. He developed an eye and lung infection, and because our kiddos have asthma, they’re considered high-risk for flu, making it imperative that he stay far away from everyone in our house.
It’s not that I was completely alone, though. Multiple friends and family members were offering to help, texting me to check in, and making sure I knew they’d be there if I needed anything. And I really did need the extra help. Unfortunately, I was too prideful to accept everyone’s gracious and generous offers.
Looking back, I realize that I should’ve said yes to every and all offers from friends to help out. The thing is, I didn’t want to seem needy or like I couldn’t handle it on my own. And when friends asked, “Is there anything we can do?” I felt awkward asking for a casserole or a bottle of Children’s Tylenol when I live just down the road from the grocery store. I didn’t want to look incompetent as a mother, but even more than that, I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.
Why, though? Those people offered to help! Most people generally don’t offer to help if they don’t want to. Although most of us are reluctant to ask for help from our communities, we have to remember that people generally like to give to others. It feels good to give of yourself or your time, and if someone is offering, we should believe that they’re doing so out of a sense of kindness, empathy, and generosity—not because they feel obligated. I’m learning how true this is in my own life through my relationship with my next door neighbor who I help out whenever I can—and I do so gladly!
Recently, I’d begun praying for God to show me someone that I could serve specifically. I’d been feeling like I wanted to really flesh out serving others in a practical way—being a stay-at-home parent means that most of my waking hours revolve around school drop offs, making meals, and changing diapers. But I’d felt a call to go beyond my own four walls and love my neighbor in a real way. It’s a blessing when someone else allows me to help them out, but I’m not the best at knowing who needs help and how to help them, unless someone asks. So, I prayed for someone to help. God answered my prayer by giving me a new neighbor. An elderly lady moved in next door last year and often needs help carrying heavy items from her car or fetching things that are too high for her to reach.
I couldn’t be happier to use my time to support her and my other elderly neighbors however I can. I also love seeing my kids pull weeds and feed the birds in my neighbor’s yard. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to teach them about practically loving their neighbors unless my new friend had allowed us into her life, humbling herself enough to admit that yes, she does need assistance sometimes. And an unexpected benefit of serving my neighbor is that she has truly become a friend. Our relationship reminds me that when I need something, I can call on her as well. The act of letting me in, of allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of me, has made us closer.
My goal for this year is to not only look for more ways to serve others, but also to allow them to serve and help me, too. I’m not talking about being a “taker” or demanding things from others, but in seasons when I’m struggling and need someone to bring a meal or watch my kids for an hour, I’m going to be open and ask those friends (or even neighbors!) who I know would actually be pretty willing to help out. Sure, it’s super humbling—who wants to reach out and declare to the world that we don’t have it all together? But the truth is when we lean on each other, our friendships, our communities, and even ourselves are stronger. After all, it takes a humble, and ultimately strong and secure person to admit when we need a little help. Next time, I’ll be the first to raise my hand and accept it.