For some, help is a four letter word … a word they feel carries a negative connotation of weakness or inferiority. Others understand that help is a two-way street … the more you ask for help, the more you are able and willing to give it when needed. Help is a gift which some are naturally born with, and others, like me, have to learn along the way.
I was taken a bit by surprise when I received a phone call asking for help from another military spouse.
While we get along well and have circles that overlap every now and then, we aren’t close. What resonated with me was that she was calling about a very personal issue and opened up with a vulnerability that was touching and made me feel, well, made me feel as if we were close. Even though we truthfully do not know much about each other at all, she knew she needed help and was not afraid to seek it. This is not her first time at the rodeo. While I may have helped her that day, she also taught me a valuable lesson in how anyone can give assistance if only asked.
The word “help” once had a bitter taste to me. I didn’t need help…I was g-u-d, good. Husband deployed? Two kids under the age of five? A Houdini dog that escaped kennels? Preparing the house for sale and a PCS? General day-to-day chaos mixed in with prior long-term commitments? What could go wrong?
During that time, we were not on a base, and like many Air Force servicemembers, he deployed alone. So I didn’t know ANYONE who had a spouse gone besides myself. I had a difficult time asking for outside help because I had no guidelines for if I was failing or if I was normal.
A family who had no obligation to mine or tie to the military, and who I only knew because our children shared classes, stepped up and gave me unsolicited help. It all began with after school play dates, then rides to and from practices, and finally escalated with phone calls telling me she would pick my kids up, feed them dinner, and she didn’t want to see me until after dinner time when we would then eat together while the kids continued to play. And while I mumbled and grumbled about how she would hijack my family, I was always grateful for her generosity.
She taught me how to accept help. She gave me a gift.
It took a family who didn’t need to be kind practically shoving their desire to help down my throat for me to learn that it is A-OK to need other people. That allowing others to help actually makes you stronger, not appear pitiful. That no one will think less of me for accepting kindness. That the world didn’t fall apart because I couldn’t be everything to everyone, all on my own.
That help is not a four letter word to be avoided but should be used openly, and without reservation or judgment.
By learning to accept help, you also learn how to give it. All of us continue to learn each day by hearing or reading military spouse stories, by witnessing how to be human through those strong enough to reach out for help, or in those who know how to graciously administer it. On our own, we are not the tower of strength we fool ourselves into believing we are being. We are simply on our own.
When have you given or received this gift of friendly military family help?