Helping Yourself

Angel at the Met in NYC

“We are going to bring meals for the next week or two if that is OK. People really want to help out in some way.”

I sat staring at the email and struggled with an answer. 

Asking for help is hard. 

Receiving unsolicited help gracefully is even harder. 


I don’t need help. I don’t want help. No, that’s not true. I don’t want to need help. I feel guilty needing help. I feel guilty receiving help. 

What will other people think? I’m a doctor. I could just order stuff, right? I have a money cushion that a lot of others don’t have. Will I be judged for accepting help? Moooching. Weak. Will I then owe people favors that they will call in later? I don’t want to OWE anyone anything.

To accept a meal, you have to be decently dressed and willing to socialize for a few minutes. Are we going to look sick enough? Needy enough?

The first meal was a chicken pot pie, caesar salad, and lemonade pie. It was amazing. It was helpful. I needed it. I was grateful. We subsisted on left overs for a few days.

“We will be dropping off some restaurant gift cards…”

You know what else I needed help with? Buying groceries. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the TIME. How to get time to shop for the family while running back and forth between the hospital, home, school, job. Someone even volunteered to help with that.

Laundry. OMG, the laundry.

The house was a mess. 

Please don’t ask to come in. I don’t want anyone to see us living like this.

Sometimes others NEED to help. Not for me. For them. That was how I justified it to myself, but standing now on the other side I can finally admit that I needed it. I needed the help to keep my kids fed. To survive.

It took a lot of pride swallowing. Humility. Grace. Pushy people. Help. 

But we survived.

Could I have done it by myself? Maybe. But it was a helluva lot easier this way.

I think about those who don’t have that kind of support. Someone who is alone and ends up in the hospital and they don’t even know who will feed their dog or water their plants. I ache for those people now, in a way I have not before because now I understand. 

Not everyone has someone. 

Truthfully, I have always been someone who would say, “Let me know if you need anything,” and just left it at that. It’s what you are supposed to say, isn’t it? Secretly I would hope they didn’t need anything. 

Where would I find the time to help? Surely there are others who will step up. It doesn’t need to be me, does it?

From now on I will be one of the pushy people. I will offer to grocery shop or do laundry or provide a meal… something specific. 

And I will be one of the pushy ones.


138 thoughts on “Helping Yourself

  1. I completely recognise your struggle to accept help, to let people get that close when things are a struggle, to admit to needing help. I am that same person and prefer to hide away from others when times are hard. Asking for help or inviting someone to provide help would be unthinkable. Well done to you for recognising what a difference it actually made when you needed it and resolving to be that person for someone else in need. I hope that I can be so gracious when I truly need some help in the future. You have given me food for thought. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Writing Links…9/4/17 – Where Genres Collide

  3. You know what? The biggest hearts know that the ones who come to offer their cleaning services or even just babysitting services are genuine friends. You have a real friend if she/he will cut the lawn or sweep the front steps so others can come without having to step/trip over something. Your kids may need a “getaway” to help them cope with it all. Or if they too are sick, they may need to be driven to a doctor’s appointment. Someone with a good eye for kids (or adults) reading could take a trip to the library and bring books. Cooking is the easiest thing to do. Put it all in disposable dishes so you do not have to even load the dishwasher! How’s that for royal treatment? And dear patient, don’t be afraid to throw something away you absolutely can’t stomach. It is all part of the recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of the great things about living in an over-55s community is that it is a given people will step up when there is a need, and also share the support around, so no one feels put upon either. Given the demographic, it is expected there will be times when people are not as well or strong as usual. Of course people could order meals from the village operator, but it is so much nicer to have home cooked soup, etc. Even when neighbours go away, those on their floor usually leave eggs, milk, bread at their door on the day of return. It’s all part of the sense of being in a caring community that we cherish.

    Liked by 1 person

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