“And Some Kind of Help, Is the Kind of Help, that Helping’s All About”
I loved, loved, loved Free to Be You and Me as a kid (yes, doesn’t that just explain so much?). One of the more prominent themes in it is that we should get past our stereotypes and rampant individualism enough to help each other out. But do we?
Over the last few months, many of the people in my immediate circles (myself included) have needed help – help with jobs, help with houses, help with mental health, help with transportation, etc. Watching this, I’ve been struck by how hard it has been for folks (again, myself included) to actually ask for help. We seem to assume that we shouldn’t ask, that we should do for ourselves, and, maybe, that our friends won’t want to pitch in.
But what I have witnessed is that people will do for each other. What keeps us from asking is our own fear that we are “imposing” or asking “too much.” It isn’t that big a deal for me to watch other people’s kids, yet I seem to think it is a huge deal for them to watch mine. I’ll toddle over to help a friend move some furniture, but I won’t call for help when I need some moral support after my garbage disposal has exploded.
With my most recent household project, however, I did put out a minor call for help and I got plenty. The job of stripping wallpaper seemed overwhelming to me – I was responsible for how long the kitchen was off-line, I had to choose the paint color, etc. – but, really, it was not that big a deal for those who helped – a few hours of their time but hours that included socializing, food, and beer.
All of this only reinforces my desire for a “compound” – a group of folks all living in close proximity who function more like family (in other words, people to whom you feel mutual responsibility) than merely “friends” or “neighbors” who are either physically not around when you need them or are around but only by accident rather than by design. I want people to whom I can go for help without a second thought. I do want my own space, mind you, but I would also be delighted to come home and find S or S or A or A or several other people drinking coffee in my (our?) kitchen. I would love for my kids to have 4 or 5 houses whose back doors were always open to them. I would love to go to the store for milk and buy for 15 people instead of 4. I would love to know that as I’m wrangling with all the sucky decisions that come with being a grown-up there is not just one person invested in my thought processes, but many. We seem to too often make things more complicated than they need to be. Why does every house on my block have a lawn mower? Why can’t I go out while my children are sleeping even though there are adults at home 10’ away from their bedroom window (but in a different house)? Why do I have to figure things out all on my own?
Admittedly, I’m a bit stuck on how to move out of my nuclear family, 1950s brick ranch house existence to this other model, but my want is real, it is on-going, it is large…
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