After years of living on my own, I’ve become exceptionally self-sufficient in most areas. Although I’m not perfect, I’m pretty capable of taking care of myself. And I like helping others, so I’m often the one giving help. But lately, I’ve realized how difficult it is for me to accept help, even when it’s obvious (to probably everyone but me) that I need it.
Recently I had some medical issues. When friends offered to help, my first reaction was to demur, minimize the surgical procedure, and tell them not to go to any trouble. But when I realized what I was doing, I decided it would be a good experience to work through those feelings of vulnerability. And so I accepted offers of help (and I dearly hope I managed to do this graciously!)
Although it made me feel uncomfortably squirmy (There are others in much more need than me! My friends have enough going on in their lives, and doing something for me would be an inconvenience! This wasn’t a huge medical procedure, and I should be able to manage on my own!), I realized that there was a gift inside the gift of help – it made me feel loved.
And I have been extravagantly loved! I received homemade soup, eggs from a friend’s chickens, flowers, a special dessert, a care package of cute socks and a candle, and help with dog care while we were at the hospital. My husband cooked soft foods and brought me juice and meds so I could stay in bed and sleep. Although I was receiving physical, tangible objects, I was actually receiving love. And if I had refused offers of help, I would have been denying myself that extravagant and unexpected love.
Accepting help brings a grace that, although I intellectually knew, I think I denied in my heart. We all go through times when we can give and times when we need to receive. There is a blessing in both.
I may have created a self-image of myself as a helper, but the truth is that we’re not either givers or receivers. That isn’t an identity. By virtue of our being human, and living in this interconnected world with others, we are always both.
A Closing Prayer
God, please give me the grace to know when it’s my turn to receive and when it’s time for me to give. Help me graciously accept help, knowing that my acceptance is a gift that I can give to those who love me. Help me realize that accepting help doesn’t make me weaker but makes me stronger. Amen.