Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Offers of help

I learned a lesson yesterday.

Saturday at SpouseBUZZ Live my throat started getting itchy. By the end of the sessions, it was clear that I had some serious postnasal drip that was going to cause a more serious problem for my drive back to C-ville.

By the time I hugged everyone good-bye (and hopefully did not spread my germies to anyone), I my sinuses were beginning to rebel as well.

Having just listened to many of my favorite people talk about the importance of asking for help, I decided to do the same. Typically, if I were someone's guest on my way out of town, I might just have them point me in the direction of a drug store so I could stop as I left, and not bother that person any. But this time, I asked my hostess, Sightly Salty, to help me. She took me directly to the local CVS. I got my sudafed, throat lozenges, bottled water, and Coke Zero (in case the sudafed wasn't enough to keep me buzzed for the three-hour drive, surely, the caffeine would help).

I stayed in bed asleep most of Sunday with aches and sinus pressure like I'd rarely ever experienced. Jack Bauer took good care of me, running to the grocery store so I could have OJ and toast, and always asking me if there was something more I needed. When I needed more juice, I simply piped up. (Whined might be a more apt description if you asked Jack.)

Monday came, and while I was feeling a little better, I still could not shake the aches all over my body, despite dosing with Tylenol every four hours. But there was a pile of laundry that needed to be done, and that meant I had to venture out in the world.

One of the first people I ran into was a wife who was residing in the same hallway of the hotel as me and Jack. With my first words, anyone could tell I was sick. She is a very kind and generous woman, but I don't know her particularly well. We haven't spent much time together here in C-ville. She asked if I needed anything, and said she was going to the grocery store in a few minutes and asked if I needed anything. I thought to myself that I could really use some limes (I like to drink a lot of diet tonic and lime), but Jack would be back later and he could go to the store for such a silly (and rather expensive) request. Since I was set for medicine, OJ, and bread for toast, I declined her offer.

About an hour later, I ran into another wife and her two kids. I've been spending much more time with these three. She's probably the wife that I've become the closest to in the seven weeks we've been here, and someone I would likely keep in touch with after we go our separate ways in a few weeks. She too asked if I needed anything. And again, I declined.

Then she said, "Do you have any Emergen-C?"

I shook my head.

"Let me bring you some." And I accepted her help.

This all reminded me of asking for help during deployment. Like many people, I was not very good about asking for help. Obviously, I'm still not. I don't want people to think I am taking advantage of there generous nature.

After Jack left, my mother offered to come out and help me get things (i.e., our financial situation) set up so I could run them in a way that made sense to me. While that required me to swallow my pride, I knew I really needed the help. And it is pretty easy to accept help from my mom, she is such a wonderful woman.

A few months later, the weather warmed up and the grass in my front yard needed to be cut. Jack had always taken care of this, usually borrowing a neighbor's lawnmower or their kids. But, um, I never bothered to get to know my neighbors. One day, I heard my next-door neighbors' adult son (a lieutenant in the police department) mowing his parents' lawn. I raced outside and asked him if he would be able to help me out this one time. (I don't think I had said more than "hello" to him in the previous three years.) I offered to pay him or donate money to his favorite charity, anything to get him to help. He agreed to do it, suggesting I could help out with gas money. No problem. (His parents later refused.) But when he agreed, him seemed reluctant, and that affected me asking for more help, especially from people I don't know well.

While I am sure this may seem obvious to some people, I never really thought about until yesterday. I learned two things about help. First, I don't like to accept help from strangers. That would mean letting them in where they could see my vulnerability, and that, of course, would be bad. The second thing I learned was that when specific help is offered, it is much more likely to be accepted, just like the Emergen-C.

As I move on from C-ville to our first duty station, I need to make sure I meet my neighbors and make more friends. Not just so I can receive their help, but so I can help them in return. And when I know people better, the more specific help I can offer, and the more comfortable they will be in accepting it.

I sure hope I remember these lessons.