At some point in our lives a lot of us became convinced that it was not ok to accept a compliment when it's offered. There is a need to down play or shrug off when something nice is said for reasons I don't understand. A wise woman once told me, "just smile and say thank you. It's all the response that's needed."
The same goes for accepting help, our refusal of help has become a reflex.
My baby sister was here the other day. I had been complaining that I can't keep up with these little monsters, that I can't get the house cleaned. She stepped into my kitchen and said, "what do you want me to do?" I was shocked at the offer and my immediate response was, "Oh, no, baby!" (because I have always called her baby. The woman is almost 22 years old and I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've used her name.) "You don't have to. I got this." She sent me a look that clearly said, "shut up." and got to work. She could see that I so don't got this. It's insane, out of control. I'm drowning in chaos, held down by depression.
Why, even though I obviously needed the help, was my automatic response a refusal? I didn't do anything to deserve her help. It wasn't her house to clean and it's a lot of work that will just be destroyed. The mess she helps clean up today is the same mess I cleaned up yesterday and the same mess I will clean up tomorrow. Why should she waste her time and effort on something I should be able to handle myself? This is my responsibility, not hers.
Because she cares.
Because she offered.
When she offered to help, she knew what she was doing. She knew that the hour we spent working would be torn apart in about the same amount of time. She knew it wasn't a permanent fix, she wasn't going for permanent, she was going for right now. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow will worry about itself, today is what we need to get through. For this hour, she wanted to help me carry my burden.
Whether it's help cleaning, to listen to you talk, to spend time with you, to watch your kids while you shower, to make a single meal for your family, or to run to the grocery store for you so you don't have to take your legion of evil with you (please, tell me you have one? I can't be the only person raising bad kids?)... they will not offer more than they want to give. When someone offers to help, they know exactly what they are committing to. They will not offer more than they can afford. You need the help, you know you do, so this is what I am going to ask you...
Next time someone offers to help, don't worry that you are putting too much on them. They offered to help because they can. because they care. Just smile and say thank you.
Then tomorrow when you can breathe, when the world isn't pressing down on your shoulders, when the dust has settled and you can see clearly to see someone who needs help... offer what you can and when they put on that brave face and tell you they got this, tell them to just smile and say thank you.
***disclaimer: This post is about accepting help someone else chooses to offer, not about asking for help- which you should totally do. People can't be expected to know you need help if you don't say so. If you don't ask, you can't be bitter and that's just the way it is. When asking for help, you cannot get mad when what you are asking for is more than the other person is comfortable giving. That's rude. What you can do is understand and ask for less, "I understand that this is big and it makes you uncomfortable. I would appreciate it if you could do this small piece to help with the big problem." Then, whether the answer is yes or no, smile and say thank you.