A few weeks back I was in the grocery line picking up some things—I think I may have had about a dozen items and I was using a shopping cart. At this particular store, you do your own bagging, and the woman who was in front of me—who had an extremely large load—was struggling to keep all her stuff in a single cart. Indeed, her cart was piled so high that several items were in danger of toppling over once the cart went into motion.
That fact appeared to be plainly visible to everyone but her. As I got my things together, I quickly called over to her, saying that I had plenty of room in my cart and would be happy to give her a hand.
Surprisingly, she smiled, and simply said, “Oh, that’s okay. I’ve got it.”
No, she plainly didn’t.
For some reason, I felt frustration come on (Was it because if she didn’t allow me to spend just three minutes helping her cart her stuff out, I would end up spending ten minutes helping her pick up what would otherwise soon be soon be a big mess?). Whatever the reason, I repeated myself, tempering my tone to be caring, yet assertive. I also threw in a smile.
“Ma’am,” I told her, trying to keep it light. “I’m sorry but you REALLY don’t. You are about to have a small disaster on your hands. Just hang a sec—and I’ll be more than happy to help you carry some of your stuff out in my cart here.”
“No, no, that’s okay…” she replied. And as she inched her cart forward, a full grocery bag started to topple over. Fortunately, I was able to rush over and catch it.
Perhaps with some embarrassment, she finally ceded the my offer. I loaded three of her bags into my cart and followed her out to her van, which was just about 20 feet from the store entrance. I handed her stuff to her, respected her space and went on my way. She did express appreciation despite her resistance at first.
That got me thinking: Why do we so often resist help when it is offered to us? In an earlier post, I shared the importance of “not going alone”—that undertaking any endeavor should be done with the guidance of trusted peers and advisors. And yet, this woman, when she clearly needed just a little help, found herself unable to accept it when offered.
I don’t know how many times I may have done the same thing. Often, it may be out of the wish not to impose on another person. We don’t want to be an inconvenience to others. But I think that’s a smokescreen.
What it really comes down to is pride.
Think about it: if you “inconvenience” someone by helping you, it creates fear that others may think less of you. That’s pride.
And how often have we allowed pride to get the best of us, without even realizing it? What were the consequences of that resistance to accepting a little help from our friends (yes, I’m nodding to the familiar Beatles tune)? Think about the woman and her groceries. I really don’t know the nature of her resistance…perhaps she was just being overly self-protective. To accept help is to make ourselves vulnerable. But it gets back to the reality of what would have occurred had she not let me help her—there would have been a bigger mess to pick up.
Here’s the other side of the issue: In most cases, when I go out of my way to help another person, any inconvenience I may actually experience is likely to be insignificant. But as a Catholic Christian, I know that even the smallest of such acts will be the most important things I do that day for ME–both spiritually and psychologically. (Note: this assuming that the deed is done out of genuine desire to help another and not to bring worldly admiration to myself. And of course that is certainly not the purpose of this article!). We each have a need to help others, and when we do so we truly help ourselves.
So, consider this little example and ask your self, with true personal honesty: Do I need some help?
If so, seek it. If it is offered, accept it.
It could truly be best thing you do for someone else all day.