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Asking for help

True confessions: I am not so good at asking for help. Even when I know I should. I tend towards stubbornness (thanks, Mom), and I usually want to do things on my own. For reasons that defy logic and common sense, I hate the thought of inconveniencing anyone. I’m trying to get better in this area, but it just doesn’t come naturally to me.

Allow me to illustrate with a true, real-life story.

One evening not long ago, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work to grab a few things. On my way out of the store, I managed to fall off of my shoes in spectacular fashion, just a few steps from my car. The parking lot surface was freshly paved, it was dry, I wasn’t rushing, and I didn’t notice any pebbles or other obstacles. On my feet were a pair of chunky-high-heeled sandals, with a thick, sturdy square heel on the bottom and a substantial leather upper. I didn’t turn my ankle, exactly – I just… went down.

My left knee took the main impact. In the moment, it made sense to me to act natural, as if I’d totally meant to have a seat exactly there, behind my car. (?!) I picked myself off the pavement in what I intended to be a deliberate manner. I opened the trunk – nothing to see here, folks! – and placed my grocery bag in it, giving silent thanks that I hadn’t bought eggs.

I got into my car and examined my left knee. It was scraped, and it would bruise and swell, but it was otherwise fine. As I was trying to compose myself, I realized there was a woman sitting in the car next to me, pecking away at her iPhone. Either she missed the spectacle, or decided to act as if she had. I felt relieved that she didn’t add to the scene, but I also felt somewhat insulted that she didn’t think enough of her fellow human to at least roll down her window and ask if I was OK.

Afterwards, I thought a lot about the concept of help, and our role as both the giver and receiver of it.

Do you rush to the aid of others without a second thought, or do you wait to be asked for assistance? Or are you more inclined to wait and see if someone else offers help first?

My extended family contains several generous angels who have always modeled the proactive art of offering help, and of doing for others, sometimes even before being asked. I’ll be the first to respond if asked, but to be honest, I’m not always one to offer pre-emptively.

But what about when you’re the one who’s in need? Have you mastered the art of graceful acceptance when someone offers to help you? Or is your first reaction to refuse, stating you are capable of handling things all by yourself? Do you recognize when you need help, and will you ask for it when you need it? 

Here’s what I’m learning about being on the receiving end: Nobody expects you to be a hero. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself. If you’re not sure what to do or how to do it, or if the task before you is just too much for one person to handle, you don’t have to go it alone. You can ask for help. Most people, when asked, will happily lend a hand, and won’t expect anything in return. And, there are people who won’t always offer, but when asked, will not hesitate to lend a hand. 

Look: I know the resume thing can feel overwhelming. You aren’t sure how to write it so that the hiring manager will choose yours out of the stack. Well, I know a little something about that, and I’m offering to help you. But you have to ask. Drop me a line and let’s talk about it.

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