Embracing a Helping Hand

Although they were a bit before my time, growing up I remember watching the old black and white Beatles’ movies on t.v. Their song “Help” has been popping up in my mind lately. Such a plaintive call for aid has often felt way beyond me.

Despite my willingness to give it, I have never really liked asking for help, personally or in my work. Or, it’s better to say, that it often didn’t occur to me to do so. Maybe it’s just a habit leftover from my only-childhood, learning to do things on my own, be on my own, so much that help under most circumstances was simply not an option in my mind.

But I’m unlearning that idea more and more. Thankfully I got some help, too, for the process.

Giving up the farmhouse, my life in the country, even after I had hired people for some jobs there was a humbling decision. It wasn’t just the endless work with the property, though; it was also the loneliness and isolation I’d been feeling for awhile. It was me admitting finally that I couldn’t stay there on my own, coming to terms with the idea that I needed different surroundings going forward.

Moving back to my smaller house in the town of Glens Falls, New York, with it’s smaller yard, in a community I’ve always liked, I’d been able to manage the yard, the house, etc., again.

Happily this past year I’ve gotten back to feeling good about doing things on my own, for myself, and still having time for my creative projects. I’ve always been a very independent person in many ways, (which is possibly one of the reasons some relationships often became hard for me, eventually). And I understood, too, that I’m sort of proud of that independence, just to add to the challenge.

Sometimes I debate whether said independence is flaw or a benefit. Like most things, I guess, it’s a bit of both.

With winter’s arrival I knew I would have to tackle snow removal once again. Though I wasn’t dreading it as I so often had in the past, feeling I could handle the work fine on my own.

Last year I had refused getting a snowblower, and stubbornly proceeded with shoveling the driveway and walks myself (which seemed small potatoes when compared to the hours I used to spend doing them at my farmhouse in the country). I actually liked the physical work of it, the repetition, the uncomplicated purpose. There is nothing much to worry over except the next shovel-full of snow.

Then in late December, during one particularly heavy storm, I came home from work to find my driveway and walks cleared of snow. I had no idea who’d done it, and wondered if maybe it was a mistake, that a company had gone to the wrong address.

Shortly after, though, I learned who came to help. After another snowfall, getting ready to go out and diligently shovel, I heard the unmistakable noise of a snowblower headed to my house. One of my neighbors was coming from two houses down, blowing off the sidewalks as he went.

I’m not proud of the fact that I was immediately suspicious of his motives to help me out, but I was.

Thoughts about his possible reasons ran through my head: Did he expect me to start paying him? Did he somehow know I was single, and was maybe looking for a date? Or, worst of all to my mind, did he think I was a helpless female who needed saving?

So I put on my big girl pants and went outside to talk to him, and thank him, if nothing else, for the help he’d already given. I was nervous, of course, worrying over the litany of expectations he might have.

But what I found when I went to greet him was not what I feared at all.

I introduced myself and learned that my neighbor’s name was Dave. He was retired, and living with his kids and his new grandchild in the house down the street. He missed working sometimes, he said, not at a job in an office, but being useful. He said he liked being outside in the winter, and that he enjoyed the work. He asked if I would let him do the snow removal for me, if I would let him help.

I was stunned, and so embarrassed at his request. Ashamed, even, that I hadn’t thought he might be doing it just to be kind.

Of course I agreed, unable to resist such a generous offer, even though my pride and independence were rankling a bit. To appease them, I said he would have to let me give him something in return. He declined the notion until I listed off cookies, chocolate chip, in particular. We then stood talking for awhile about work and life, and how much we both liked the community we lived in.

Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, I had a new friend. I was humbled once again, by the way the universe works sometimes, the people it sends our way.

Last I month I met Dave’s grandson when they both came down to shovel my driveway, There was very little snow this time, and I told him it wasn’t necessary at all to do. We chatted together as his grandson randomly pushed the snow around into piles, making it heavier in spots. But I really didn’t mind.

Two days ago we had a huge storm, with inches of ice covering more inches of snow. It was awful, and there are still people without power in some places.

Sure enough, Dave was down to my house after the storm ended, in the bitter cold and dark, with his snowblower. I wasn’t home at the time, but arrived to find everything cleared. He does a great job, too, I have to say, very neat and tidy. And he doesn’t just do my driveway and walks, he does them also for the neighbor in between our houses, and for the people across the street.

Whether the other neighbors pay him in cookies or not, I don’t know. If they don’t, they really should, it’s definitely worth it.

Yesterday morning, however, I didn’t have any cookies to give him in return. But I had made soup, a minestrone-like concoction from pantry staples, that I hoped might be appreciated instead, something to warm up with after being out in the freezing temperatures.

Preparing to leave it on their doorstep before I went in to work, I put some of the soup in a Tupperware container and walked down to the house.

I met Dave in the driveway warming up one of their cars. I apologized for only have soup this time, but he was thankful for it anyway. Ever the nurse, I listed off the ingredients, fearing he or one of the kids might have an allergy to tomatoes, or something else in it. He said all was fine, that I hadn’t had to bring anything, that he liked soup, too, though not quite as much as cookies.

Walking back to my house (even knowing I was going to work later) I couldn’t stop smiling.

Having let my guard down, something good made it through the gap. I was glad, yes, for the help, but more that my acceptance of it had gotten me a new friend, and now someone else had one, too. I had told my pride and independence to just be quiet for awhile and see what happens, and it worked out just fine.

I don’t think it will cause me to turn into a needy beggar anytime soon, but I’m definitely going to allow for the possibility of receiving help more and more going forward. For my own sake, yes, and because that very openness so often helps the other person, too. And in a world so often troubled now, that idea is still a very good thing.

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