We were sitting around my parents’ kitchen table catching up with my nieces on a recent visit. My daughter Riley asked the seven-year-old where she liked to eat when she was on vacation at the beach in Florida. She listed a couple of places then turned to her older sister and with perfect comedic timing and a pinch of sass said, “help me here, Sis.” My oldest niece smiled and provided the names of additional restaurants. Riley and I glanced at each other as we held back our laughter. This girl has spirit and spunk and none of us want to squelch that.
But as I thought more about our conversation, I realized what my niece had accomplished with her adorable little quip. In one fell swoop, she’d invited another person to participate in the conversation and asked for help at the exact same time. She’d done it in such a casual and comfortable manner, though, I almost missed the significance of her statement.
Most of us don’t ask for help so easily. Instead, we worry that people will think less of us if we ask for help. We often berate ourselves for our inability to handle all of life’s circumstances on our own. We fear people’s judgment. We want to hide our troubles to avoid potential shame. We may even decide to suffer in silence because we feel weak at the prospect of reaching out to another and anxious about being vulnerable in front of others. But we need to normalize asking for help. To make it a more common occurrence because who doesn’t need some help on a regular basis?
I saw a friend at Target the other day, and she shared some difficult information about challenges facing her family. We talked for a while about the range of emotions that she and children might experience. And at the end of the conversation, I said what many of us often do: “let me know if you need anything.” Most of the time, when presented with that statement, we say we will call if we need something but know we won’t. This time, my friend said, “that dinner we talked about having might be good.” We’d previously discussed having dinner sometime in the future but didn’t have solid plans. In that moment, though, she achieved the same thing my niece had. She invited me to help and gave me a concrete opportunity to do so. The more I thought about her response, the more I admired her for it. She’d shown vulnerability in what she’d shared then offered me a way to be present with her.
Maybe that is one path to normalize asking for and receiving help. When someone asks us what we need, we actually tell them. Even if no one can fix things for us, they can probably go for a cup of coffee. People want to help us when we are in need. Let’s learn to ask for help in specific ways. And in turn, we can show them that the next time they need help, it’s okay to ask because we’ll be there for them too.