by Christy Gualtieri
Recently, my family helped out a neighborhood family up the street while they welcomed their second child into the world. My kids and husband and I stayed with our friend’s older child, an adorable three year old, and spent the day with him as his parents and new baby brother settled into a routine at the hospital. Our neighbors had a rough go of it; the delivery had some complications, and although everything, thankfully, turned out all right in the end, there were some really harrowing moments in between the long hours of the day.
Our neighbors were really thankful for our help, and we were glad to do it. There have been many times that we’ve needed to rely on others, and we try to raise our children to feel that if we can do something to help someone else, we should.
It doesn’t need to be anything big. It could be offering to babysit, walk a dog, pick up groceries, bring in the trash cans, picking up mail, whatever. Offering to help an older person cross the road. Spending some time on the phone with a long-distance friend who is going through a hard time, just offering to lend an ear instead of your opinion.
I have many friends who would do anything for anyone at the drop of a hat, just to lend a hand. Are you that way?
It makes sense that we should try to help. But, like everything else in life, helping requires balance. If you find yourself being the kind of person who says “yes” to helping all the time – maybe more often than you think you can – you can find yourself getting burnt out, and starting to resent doing so much for others.
Helping others also requires saying, “no,” too. See if this sounds familiar:
“Why isn’t anyone helping me? I do so much for everyone – take time out of my day, with all the things I could be doing, and no one helps me. Can’t they see I’m struggling? Where’s my help?”
If it does, then it’s time to start saying “no.” Take care of yourself. Because if you carry on and try to push through your resentment with gritted teeth, your resentment will cause both you and those you help distress. Something’s going to give, and it’s not going to be pretty.
Maybe you do have balance – you say “yes” when you can, and “no” when you can’t, which is wonderful!
But…do you also say, “thanks!” Meaning, you let someone help you? Because it can be common for people to help others all the time, even when they do so responsibly, and not accept any help when it’s offered to them. Letting someone help you gives them a great gift: it helps them feel like they’re doing something nice, it helps them remember that it’s a good idea to reciprocate and to give after they’ve received something, and it helps you to realize that you are not a superhero who needs to do everything for everyone with nothing in return.
Of course, there are seasons in our lives when we are not in a position to do as much as we would like. But remember, balance: if you are able to help others in need, please do. If it causes you distress, anger, or resentment, then don’t (or, find something or someone else to help). And don’t forget to take up an offer to have the help reciprocated, every once in a while.
In doing all of this, we can help our families, neighborhoods, communities, and world be a much, much better place.
Until next time, be well!