“Would you like help with your groceries?” The clerk behind the counter asked me.
“No, thanks.” I replied out of habit.
I glanced at my 2 year-old, snot trickling out of her nose, attempting to hoist herself out of the cart yet again, while clenching a balloon.
“Um, on second thought, yes. I’d love some help.”
As we walked out to the parking lot, the clerk complimented my daughter on her purple balloon. “Is that your favorite color?” she asked. My daughter nodded, and then declared in her toddlerese that she was going to be a purple truck driver (I take that to mean she’ll only drive purple trucks?). The clerk warmly nodded and said she liked trucks, too. “And I’m gonna wear a purple hat!” my daughter added.
With bags stowed in the car and my daughter buckled into her car seat, miraculously with no major meltdowns, I thought about how I had said yes to help. And that felt ok. Better than ok, actually. And not just how saying yes had made my life a little easier, but in the process, my daughter had a nice interaction with a kind stranger.
This moment got me thinking more about help. It’s often hard for me to ask for or accept help, yet it’s easy for me to give it. I want to help and be helpful, in fact. Like most folks, I figure.
I realize that only a few weeks before I was at that same grocery store (sense a theme here?), without kids this time. I went to use the bathroom and found a woman with a newborn and a toddler. She was trying to use the bathroom herself and coach her in-the-process-of-potty training toddler to use the bathroom, too, while balancing her infant. The scene looked familiar. Before I had the chance to offer, she asked me to hold her baby, a little desperation in her voice. I found myself cradling the familiar warmth of a newborn against my chest. The mom was able to use the bathroom and help her daughter avoid an accident and I had three sweet minutes of cuddling with a sleeping baby. I’m reminded of all the research that shows that acts of altruism and kindness increase happiness and in some cases, health and longevity.
So, how do I learn to ask for and accept help gracefully? How do I help a friend who’s suffered a deep loss? How do I help my kids in a way that allows them to grow up to be happy, kind, helpful people?
I don’t know the answers, but I realize there’s great power in accepting and asking for help. I think in order to truly be a good helper, you have to learn to accept help with grace. I’m trying. Maybe not always with grace, but I’m trying.