Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Big Box, Store" -- on asking for help

A few weeks ago was Richard's 50th birthday.  After wracking my brain for a long time about what to get him ("A book again?"  "Running gear again?"), I decided to go looking for a special Dad-type patio chair.  I found the perfect one on sale at Canadian Tire:  it had a canopy and a sliding pillow and everything.

However, the box was bigger than I expected, and unwieldy.  I knew I couldn't carry it to the checkout, so I went and got a cart.  Then I managed to lift the box and maneuver it sorta-kinda into the cart; then I made my way to the checkout with one hand on the cart handle and one hand steadying the box.

The cashier asked, "Do you need any help taking that out?"

"Oh, no, I'll be fine," I said.

I wheeled the cart out to the car, opened the trunk, put the back seats down flat, and moved my groceries (which I'd already bought before going to Canadian Tire) out of the way.

As I was doing this, I saw a guy sitting in a truck not far away.  He was watching me, and I was pretty sure that he was wondering if I needed any help and was ready to offer it if I did.

But I didn't.  I got the box out of the cart and into the car without much difficulty. 

So ... let me recap.  I wanted a patio chair.  I found the perfect chair on sale.  I thought I might not be able to get it out to the car or into the car myself, but I did.  Richard really likes it. 

As plots go, even I have to admit this story is boring.

But afterward I got thinking about why I didn't ask for help at any stage along the way.  It was a really awkward box.  Why didn't I go and look for someone to help me right away when I found the chair I wanted?  Why didn't I accept the cashier's offer of assistance to get the box to the car?  Why was I so determined not to look like an inept damsel-in-distress in front of what was probably a very nice man who would have been happy to help me out?

Possible answers?
- Self-sufficiency:  "I don't need anyone; I can do it."
- Pride:  "Look at me!  I did it all by myself."
- Determination:  "I will get this box into the car if it's the last thing I do."
- Desire to avoid being a bother (a.k.a. false humility):  "Other people might need help more than I do at this moment; I'll just struggle away on my own, don't worry about me."

I'm not exactly sure which motive was in play at that moment -- but the reality is that if the box had been five pounds heavier and six inches thicker, I would have asked for help without feeling any of those things.  So really it was a judgment call, and I was fortunate enough to judge correctly:  I thought I could probably do it without help, and it worked out fine this time.  In other circumstances I might judge differently.

I guess the problem is when we assume we don't need help when it is painfully obvious to others around us that we do.  Then failing to ask for help, or refusing it when it's offered, can be a really bad sign.

We used to sing this song at church called "The Servant Song," whose first verse goes like this:

Won't you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

What an interesting idea:  that accepting help and service from others is an act of grace.  I should remember that -- not necessarily the next time I purchase a piece of patio furniture, but the next time I find myself struggling with something, either a practical need or a personal issue.  Instead of assuming I can handle it, maybe I should consider asking someone for help, thus showing grace to myself and to them.


  1. I got one of these chairs for Rob a couple of summers ago...and i totally asked for help! I did unlock the van for the guy by myself. :) I'm going look for an opportunity to help you now Jeannie and see how you are progressing in accepting acts of grace. :)

    1. Ha ha, that's so funny, Jamie! I'll be on the lookout for that! And of course my accepting your act of grace will be in turn bestowing grace on you, which is a total win-win. :-)

  2. I love that song, the Servant Song. I can totally relate. I find it hard to ask for help. "Oh, no, I can get it." I think I don't want to bother people. But for me it humbles me more to accept the help, so I try to remember that!

    Congratulations on your husband's 50th! I guess our 50's Club is getting bigger by the day. :-)

    1. Thanks, Betsy. Yes, we are truly part of an elite group. At least that's one way to look at it. :-)

      I agree that accepting help is humbling and that that's probably why we should do it more.

  3. Very nicely written. I am a woman who rarely asks for help, and also has too much pride sometimes to accept what is being offered. I'm glad to teach my daughter that women can be as strong as men, but I'm also forgetting to teach her that asking for help when needed is sometimes as necessary for the one needing help as for those who are offering it. A great lesson here that really made me look at myself. Thanks for that. And happy birthday to your husband. (and a little pat on the back for getting the chair in the car, too.)

    1. Thanks, Samantha. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

  4. I love this - so glad you posted the link over in my corner. The possible motives as to why we refuse help are really insightful!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bronwyn! It's neat how we were both thinking sort of along the same lines with this subject.

  5. I'd forgotten about this post until you linked it in a comment at my place today, Jeannie. You've given a wonderful reminder of why self-reliance is not the way of the Christian. God puts us in company with other people not only so we can help them but so they can help us as well.

    1. Thanks, Tim, and thanks for adding it to your post, too. Very kind of you.


Please leave a comment. I love to hear from readers, and I always reply!