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Can I Get You Anything? Learning to Accept and Offer Help In Times of Need

Can I Get You Anything? Learning to Accept and Offer Help In Times of Need
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I was sick all the time as a childmumps, chicken pox, asthma, allergies, sore throatsyou name it, I was infected with it! My mom used to give me a bell to ring so that she could hear me downstairs while I was recuperating upstairs in my pajamas (and robe!), most likely watching back-to-back cartoons.

Now that I’m older and don’t have a bell to ring (or a robe to wear), it’s a completely different story when I’m convalescing. I have loads of friends in the city and in my apartment building, yet I hate asking people for help. Are you the same way?

It makes it even more complicated living in a city where everything from your food to your meds to your toiletries can be delivered to your front door. You sometimes feel foolish saying “yes” when the offers of help are extended to you.

I had a few epiphanies recently that opened up my eyes when I was feeling very vulnerable. This past summer, I had a crazy injury that required that I lie on my couch for a few days, electronics unplugged. Did you ever try to go a day without checking your emails or watching bad TV? It feels like a lifetime. And speaking of ‘lifetime’ I did distract myself with a few Lifetime for Women movies in spite of the doctor’s orders not to watch TV.  I was also experiencing dizziness, so going outside was not an option either.  (Although that was actually a blessing in disguise as it was during the heat wave!).

During that time, friends called and asked if I needed anything. I always replied “No thank you, I’m fine”.

You know what? I really wasn’t fine. But I hated the thought of burdening people with errands that I could have probably figured out how to manage or at least postpone until I could manage them. Yet in hindsight, I know I would have appreciated a visit or two, as I felt isolated while not feeling so great either.

It wasn’t until the tables were turned that I realized it’s not as black and white as we think. A few months ago, a friend of mine had to get emergency surgery and was recuperating at home. Like me, she’s super independent, and also tends to be a very private person. So when I checked in on her via email (I didn’t want to disturb her with a phone call) to see if she was okay, she reassured me that she was managing.

She wasn’t.

I later found out that her food deliveries could not be delivered directly to her apartment due to restrictions in her apartment building. She also wasn’t in a position to start lifting heavy grocery bags from her lobby either. But I learned this after the fact when she was already out and about.

Of course I felt horrible that I wasn’t there for her in her time of need.

It got me thinkingwhat is the appropriate way to offer help and also accept help if you fancy yourself as someone who is independent?  Here’s what I learned from both my experience and my friend’s experience.

When someone offers to help you, accept with gratitude. Most people love to help (why do you think people do volunteer work?) It gives them a sense of fulfillment. So be specific – if you’re craving fresh fruit, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (in my case, the chocolate chip cookie dough flavor), or need toilet paper and Kleenex, tell them.

But down the line when you’re feeling better, make sure that you show your appreciation and gratitude for their kindness.

When you ask a friend or family member “Can I get you anything?” in their time of need, be more specific with your offer such as: “Can I pick up a sandwich, groceries or your meds for you today?” or “Do you need anything from CVS?  I’m going there today anyway”. Sometimes the offers we extend are empty ones, just so that we feel good that we reached out. When your friend or family member says “no”, you’re technically off the hook, and admit it, you feel a bit relieved! So make sure to remind them that they are not burdening you, and you’d love to help.

Find out if you can stop by just to say hello for a few minutes. (Assuming they’re not contagious of course!). It makes a world of difference to the person who is no doubt feeling a sense of isolation as they recuperate. If a visit from you is out of the question, a phone call, email or get well card shows the person that you haven’t forgotten about them.

With flu season right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to be more aware and sensitive to the needs of others, especially as we’re all distracted running around doing last minute holiday shopping. Let’s not forget about those people who might really need us in the next few weeks, remembering that our kind gestures go a long way.

And when you’re feeling cozy in your pajamas (robe optional), may the sound of jingle bells be the only bells you hear ringing…

Wishing you a happy (and healthy) holiday season!


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