Editor’s note: Missioner Aubrey Kimble reflects on how helping others is a two-way interaction that requires the openness not just to offer but also to ask for help.
A few weeks ago, a veterinary sciences student at the university where I teach ended up in the ICU in La Paz. Suffice it to say that this scared us all to death, especially since the ICU is extremely expensive – something most people in Bolivia really can’t afford.
In response to this, some of the veterinary students banded together and started a collection box for donations. They went around campus and the surrounding communities asking for help for their classmate, even contributing money that the veterinary sciences department had saved up to contribute. They decorated the collection box with a sign that said “Hoy por mi, mañana por ti,” or “Today for me, tomorrow for you.” How beautiful!
As I watched the students asking for donations in the dorms, I was pleasantly surprised at how almost everyone seemed so willing to give. And if they couldn’t give right then, they promised to get money out soon to contribute. It made me stop and reflect on how willingly I give help—whether it be from my finances, my time, or my talents—when it’s asked of me.
Actually, that’s something I take pride in. I am usually the first person to offer help when it’s needed—or at least I try to be. I like to be the person that people can turn to when they need it. I suppose that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing.
But then I started to reflect on how often I ask for help. I really don’t do it that often. I wonder, why is that?
I found my answer one day while reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. While talking about connection, she says, “For years, I placed value on being the helper in my family…I was always happy to help others, but I would have never called my siblings to ask them for help…now, I understand how I derived self-worth from never needing help and always offering it.”
I see myself in that statement. I love helping people, and although it may have been unconscious, I realized that I really like the feeling of being Super Woman to people. I like being the woman who has it all together and who can still find time to support others.
But the thing is, I’m not perfect. And there are many times when I, too, need help and support. I am going to try to be more open and ask for help, especially after reading this other quote from Brené Brown: “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”
Admittedly, I was a bit defensive when I first read this. I thought, Me, judgmental?! Certainly not! I love helping people, and I’m not judging them when I do it!
However, this is what I’ve learned about receiving and helping: it’s all connected. Only wanting to help and never being able to receive makes “helping” a one-way transaction. It’s all about what I can do for you, and implies that there is nothing that you can do for me.
But that’s not true! We need others as well, even if we don’t realize it, and even if it’s for something that isn’t tangible, such as offering a listening ear. When we open ourselves to receiving, it creates a balanced relationship with other people. This is something I’m especially striving to do here during my time on mission.
So lately, I’ve been challenging myself to ask for more help. As crazy as it sounds, it is not something that is easy for my perfectionist, do-it-all-with-a-smile-on-my-face tendencies. But I’m making a real effort, because I know that this will make me a more compassionate, loving person.
Reflection questions: All healthy, life-giving relationships grow with a balance of give-and-take. How can you practice more balance in your relationships and interactions with others?