Welcome to this glorious Friday, October 30, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
Please don’t get the wrong impression: in this moment, I’m OK. My intention is to be helpful and write about the importance of asking for help.
I certainly won’t deny that there are those who rely upon the help of others in ways that is detrimental to their own self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall well-being. Nevertheless, I feel like there are more of us who are driven by a socially ingrained and unhealthy self-reliance – a limiting inability to ask for help.
When I look at panhandlers, I sometimes have conflicting thoughts about what I’m seeing. I wonder if they’re standing there in the rain, wet and shivering, holding their cardboard message looking for a handout instead of seeking employment. While this may be the case in some situations, that judgmental thought doesn’t occur to me as often as it used to. Our fragile capitalist economic structure has created a system which promotes scarcity and vulnerability. Most Americans are only three months away from being homeless – some of us are even more susceptible than that. Many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. When I observe beggars meow, I see me – my possible future. I also see humility. I see people—wonderful, beautiful, human beings who are struggling and are reaching out for help. This takes courage.
Asking for help, I have come to believe, is a vital ingredient in personal development. I don’t know for sure, but I believe this is why when men and women who enter the Buddhist monastic life are stripped of their belongings, handed some robes and an alms bowl – a beggar’s bowl.
In learning how ask for help, we are given the humbling opportunity to understand our dependence upon the efforts of others for our survival. And, our inseparability.
Despite western society’s obsession with independence and self-reliance, we can’t survive without others’ help. Yes, of course, we can earn money to buy cars, houses, food, and clothing. We even refer to these articles as “ours.” Unfortunately, in our head down/elbows flying compulsion towards autonomy, we lose sight of the infinite others whose efforts are responsible for the production and distribution of these resources. Independence, in this sense, is an isolating illusion.
But even more important than the opportunity to cultivate humility, asking for help does something considerably more magical. When we ask for help, it gives another person the opportunity to be a helper. Being of service to others – generosity – is one of those virtues which has been passed down through every wisdom and religious tradition that I can think of. In times of tragedy, Mr. Rogers reminds us to, “Look for the helpers.”
Why would we deny someone the benefit of being a helper? Well, I did because I lacked humility and didn’t understand how important it is to ask for help. Over the years, I have helped many people move from one house to another. I’ve done so with gratitude and have always felt good about being of service. I never regretted helping someone move. However, when I moved, I did all I could on my own because I didn’t want to be a burden – I was sure that others had better things to do. Besides, to myself I would say, “I got this!”
Why the disconnect? How can we think that it would be burdensome for someone else when we have repeatedly benefited in so many ways when we’re offered the generous gift of helping?
Whatever is going on in your life, let others help you (hint – they already are). You can do this – Ask for Help. In asking, you’re giving someone the opportunity to feel good about themselves. What a gift!
I love you and there isn’t anything you can do about it,
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