On the Kindness of Others

Weekly column. I know you guys are going to miss Spica when it’s gone. Aren’t you? Just admit it.

When I was pregnant with our first baby, I worked at the local newspaper. My job involved working with area schools, where I would introduce students to the newspaper through classroom presentations and seminars for teachers.

Several days a week, I would travel throughout the region visiting schools. I’d walk in and out of buildings carrying large stacks of newspapers, learning materials and Mr. Newspaper, our newsie mascot (human insert not included). This was easy enough until the end of the pregnancy when I no longer had a waist, which prevented me from opening a door and carrying things simultaneously.

One day I realized that as I waddled towards a door, I was praying for just the right person to help me at just the right time. It worked, and I used that reliable method until the baby was born. Someone was always there in my moment of need.

These last few weeks of Henry in a body cast have sent me back to a season of neediness. Unfortunately, I recall that pregnant season with more fondness than I currently feel. It’s not fun needing help. It’s so much easier to get the job done myself – when I want to and in my own timeframe – than to ask for help and see what I get (and when).

For a while, practical living with the cast wasn’t too taxing. Of course there was the initial shock and upheaval – and friends brought meals and watched the boys in those first few days. But then we settled in and things were fine. Maybe I’d even say things were lovely.

The boys still had a few weeks of school, so most of their day was accounted for. And while I couldn’t grocery shop alone – Henry can’t fit into a shopping cart – that inconvenience afforded me several memorable outings. One morning, my brother rode with me to the local food warehouse. He pushed the cart while I managed Henry and I still got a month’s worth of food just like I always do.

A few days later, Henry and I hit Target with a friend who pushed a cart that I loaded with beanbags, diapers and other essentials. My friend and I even grabbed coffee on that outing, something we’d been planning for months but could never find the time. All it took was a spica cast for me to slow down enough for an iced hazelnut latte.

But that was then. Now, it’s summer. Now I have four big boys who need to get out – who really can’t stay inside watching television all day (despite their protests to the contrary). Now I am back to relying on the kindness of others – of praying for friends to help fill the gaps that I am temporarily incapable of filling myself.

Instead of me hanging out at the pool every day, I ask my friend if the boys can go with her. When my sister-in-law offers to have all the boys over to play, I gratefully accept. My sister has watched Henry every chance she gets, with open and eager arms – and still I find myself sheepish when I accept, or when I need her help again, a few days later.

It would be so much easier to say no, it is too much, you have all done enough already. I want to say I can handle it myself and I’m so grateful for your generosity but I’ve got it under control.

But I can’t. Because I don’t. While I could limp along and just white knuckle this situation for a few more weeks, the thought of it makes two weeks seem like a lifetime. I realize that the only thing keeping me from accepting help is my pride, and my desire to do it all myself.

These weeks with infirm Henry have been hard. It is hard for me to ask for help with my boys – or to accept offers of help. But I have. What a strange, challenging, possibly even liberating thing to take people up on their offers of kindness.

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Comments

  1. Rachel — it's a hard lesson for us Type-A personalities to learn, but very liberating in the end! I learned this the hard way when my husband was deployed – twice! – to the middle east. The 2nd time when I had a two week old infant, and three other smallish children. My friends and family were wonderful, and in my moments of true grace, I realized that by allowing others to help me, I was also giving them a gift back, by allowing them their generosity. I also realized that were the tables turned, I would be offering my help with nothing expected in return, and hoping that my friend or sister would accept. Hang in there for the last couple of weeks!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am with you on that sentiment Rachel! The hardest thing to do is accept help b/c in essence it just proves that we cannot do it all and are weak and need others to help us carry through at particular times in our lives. The cross is so much lighter when we share the weight! At times when I tried to rely on my very-own-self to accomplish a task and failed, I realized it was because I did not rely on the Source of Strenght Itself, our dear God. As my spiritual director once *reminded* me very so kindly, "Michelle, you are not in charge". He is right, and I thank him for that!
    Have a great weekend – God Bless.

  3. Several months ago, I became the caretaker of my MIL after she suffered a massive stroke. I went from being able to control all the aspects of my day to needing help, constantly. The little things, such as opening a door in order to maneuver her wheelchair through, became olympic events where I at times actually broke out in a sweat from the combined effort of keeping her from rolling away while simultaneously entering our destination. After a near breakdown, I finally realized, like you have, that I couldn't "do it all". Now, if my children aren't with us, I watch and wait for the person entering the same location my MIL and I are headed, and generally, without my even asking, the door will be opened for me, just as God promises. You and Henry have been and will remain daily in my prayers. During these final weeks, continue to rely on the kindness of others – they are rewarded for their loving acts even more than you are.

    Nikki