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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Small Gifts, Large Impact

A month ago, I wrote about saying yes to help. This morning, as I tried to get myself, my son and our belongings (diaper bag, purse, coffee, sippee cup) out of the car and into a meeting, a woman I know stopped and asked if I needed help. My first impulse, as usual, was to say no. Here’s the progress: I paused to think, then said yes. First I asked if she would just hold the bags while I took Daniel out of the car seat. Dismayed, late, flustered, I wrestled him out of the straps, and almost burst into tears when I saw that somehow in that process, his pants had come off. Elizabeth said, “I’m not leaving until we are all inside.”

This may sound like a small act of kindness, but to me, it was gold. I realized just how frazzled I was, and felt flooded with gratitude for her calm presence. I really needed someone to just stand with me while I unloaded the car, loaded the stroller, wheeled it to the door. I didn’t know how much I needed that until she offered. After the meeting I hugged her and told her how much she had helped me, and I saw that my gratitude helped her. What a beautiful feedback loop that is.

We live next door to a church that has an AA meeting every day at 12:30. Very often, I come home sometime in that hour and can’t find parking. One day, my next door neighbor saw me looking for parking and said, “Julie, you can park in my driveway whenever that happens.” My instinct was to say, “No, no, I’m fine.” Then I thought about lugging my 20 pound child and my groceries all the way down the block, and I said, “Thank you.” I parked in his driveway today, and came home calm, relieved, thankful, instead of hot, tired, grumpy. Accepting help is really improving my life. I recommend trying it.

Have you accepted a small kindness recently? How did it affect you?


  1. AnonymousMay 31, 2012

    You can park in my driveway anytime. that might not help you much. - Greg

  2. Thanks, again, Julie, for the reminder. I just asked three people to be references for me (again)as I've found a job possibility for which I am a good candidate. In each case, the person I asked is "delighted." I am humbled. Too, as I stumble around in my grief over losing Pepper to cancer, I am accepting more hugs, more lunch invites, more support that I am usually comfortable with. I could grow to like this interdependence...

  3. ok, first I confess, I laughed at the image of Daniel's pants coming off.
    I had to think a little too long about your question, which means I have not recently enough accepted a small kindness. I will try to rectify that today.

  4. Thanks, Greg. I might actually take you up on that. And Mary, I'm giving you a virtual hug right now. Carol, I hope that you find a kindness to accept today.

  5. And yes, I thought Daniel's pants coming off was funny too. Well, not at the time...

  6. In both those situations I would have accepted those acts of kindness. There are moments when we need someone to say, "You will make it through this crazy minute." And I hate looking for a parking spot so I would really like the offer to park in the driveway.

  7. This reminded me of the song lyric "I get by with a little help from my friends". :-) Today I was in a situation at work where I needed to ask for help from a coworker who, well, let's just say she can be a challenge. She seems to get great satisfaction from thinking she knows more than other people. Well, today, in regard to one detail, it was true. She did know more than me. I thought about just figuring out the answer another way, but decided to swallow my pride and ask her. It was over with in moments and the day moved along. I would imagine that in addition to her ego, she probably felt good about being helpful. (It's not the same kind of situation you're describing, but I think there's a bit of similarity.)
    I think we do often forget that part - that the other person gets something out of being helpful and when we decline their help, we're really depriving them of that good feeling. Everyone needs to be needed sometimes, afer all!

  8. Thanks for commenting, Rachel. Hard to ask the know-it-all for help. Give yourself a big gold star for that!

  9. Julie: I've been thinking about this concept of asking for/accepting help since Carol's post on the topic. It's made me realize that I don't often ask for help from others, other than the usual suspect (my husband). I am always happy when someone holds a door open for me, offers me a space in line because I only have one thing vs. their full cart. It's a virtual kiss.

    Pants coming off made me chuckle too.