Among the many flaws and weaknesses I have, there is one that masquerades as a positive quality—at least that’s how I’ve seen it for most of my life. It is only within the last few years that I realize that it isn’t a sign of strength but more accurately a sign of stupidity.
You see, I’m not very good at asking for help. I like to take care of things myself. Asking for help is a sign of weakness, of inability…of failure.
Stupid, right? Yeah, I know.
Unfortunately, that’s how I’ve been wired since I was a kid, so seeing it for what it is has really taken me some time. (Or maybe I’m just a really slow learner.) And then changing it? Well, that evolution is still underway.
But let me share a recent lesson in my progress.
The other day I was on “band carpool” duty. My son’s school shares a band with another school, so one day a week, we have to get up extra early, drive farther out to the other school, have class, then drive the kids back in time for their “real” school day to begin. It pretty much sucks. (Support the Arts in school, people!)
My husband does this every week…and I am very grateful. But last week he needed me to do it, and I did. All went just fine…until I forgot to turn my headlamps off. It was bright enough daylight that I didn’t see that they were still on while I sat in the car with the motor off and waited for the kids. It was very cold…and therefore didn’t take much for my battery to die.
Yep. As I went to start the van to get it warm for the kids, it sputtered and whined and then passed out.
Let’s say my language was colorful as I swallowed my disbelief and tried to understand what this meant in my little world. No van. Need to get kids back to school in a tight timeframe. Freezing. Idiot.
Actually, the idiot part happened right out of the gate.
I called my husband and shared the situation with him. He offered to drive out and help, but I knew that meant a lot of time to add onto the solution. It dawned on me that maybe I could ask one of the other parents to be my booster car.
You see, I am very well versed at jumping cars. Being the “I’ll take care of it” person that I am, I’ve done it many times both for myself and others. The only help I need is…another car.
And that was my problem here. My plan was to get my cables out and ready and wait for one of the other parents I knew to show up. (They don’t sit and wait but return at pickup.)
I wanted to save time and do all that I could to be ready, so I got the cables and then popped my hood.
As soon as I lifted the hood and propped it up, the man who was helping direct the school buses for that school came over. He was wearing a yellow safety vest and a kind smile. “What do you need?” he asked. I told him I needed a jump, and he grabbed his walkie talkie and started to tell the guy on the other end to get the cables. I showed him that I already had those, and he smiled and said, “Well, give me a second!”
Indeed, within seconds, he had his truck over and his assistant and he were hooking up the cables. (I must admit that I quietly intervened and changed what the assistant did since he put them on in the wrong order.) The van popped right off within a few seconds.*
We made it to school right on time.
(As it turns out, of the two parents I was looking for to help, one didn’t come that day and the other was running late. So my planned solution would have at best made us quite late.)
By lifting my hood, I inadvertently put the call out for help…and received it.
I may have had the cables and the knowledge, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed someone’s help. And I was not weak for needing it. The reality is I simply couldn’t do it on my own no matter what—I needed another car.
Sometimes help is “needing another car.” Not being less than or incapable. Not being weak or not enough. Just not having all the Xs and Ys to solve the equation.
I’m still learning to embrace that…rewiring takes time. But I am learning. One of the things that helps me grow is remembering how I feel when I am able to help others. I don’t feel like I’m stronger or more capable or anything like that—I feel grateful to be able to help. I feel needed.
When I don’t allow others to help me, I am denying them that feeling. That’s lame. Remembering this pushes me to be better about asking for help.
As a work in progress, I am growing to accept that it’s okay to prop my hood up and signal that I need help—that I can’t do this on my own. That I need someone to be my booster car. One jump at a time, I am getting there.
*Turns out that the man in the yellow vest and the kind smile is actually the principal of the school. Seeing him help with the buses and then with my car, I never would have guessed it–and he never let on. Class act.