Magazine article U.S. Catholic

It's All in the Asking

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

It's All in the Asking

Article excerpt

IT HAS TAKEN ME A WHILE, BUT I HAVE learned that voicing my needs is not selfish or demanding or a sign of weakness but an opportunity to build relationships. I've found that expressing my desires and vulnerabilities is an act of love. When I say what's on my mind or ask for help, I open my heart to being rejected as well as being accepted, but I still take the chance. I take the risk because I've seen that miracles happen when people voice their needs to those around them.

This past spring I was involved in such an experience. I needed a baby-sitter so I could attend an appointment. I did not want to ask my neighbor to baby-sit because I did not want to burden her. I didn't want her to feel obligated.

A few weeks before my appointment, I was out in the front yard chasing my 16-month-old son, who wandered toward her house. As it turned out, she and her husband and two children were also outside. We talked, and I found myself plainly asking her whether she could watch my child for a few hours in a couple of weeks. "Sure," she said. "Of course."

I was stunned and delighted. Even though I didn't see her much until the day of my appointment, I felt a camaraderie with her that hadn't existed before. When I returned from my trip, she told me she had enjoyed the baby-sitting. She said my toddler was fun and cute. She seemed happy and would not accept any payment. The next day I knocked on her door and handed her two plates of brownies as a token of thanks.

This incident taught me two things. It reminded me that goodness and grace emerge when people help each other, and it showed me that I should welcome these opportunities more often. For what could be considered a small favor wasn't small at all to me. I'm thankful that I asked and received my neighbor's act of kindness, and I am truly grateful for her service. In a world where I've learned to be self-sufficient and independent, our interaction was wonderful.

In another case, I received an unsolicited act of kindness when I first became a mom. A few days after I was home with my newborn, two new friends of mine who had never been to my house dropped by with their arms full of an offering of homemade dinners. Whenever I think of that first stressful week of being a new mom, I recall being sustained by my two friends' food. And I recall being spurred to keep the cycle of generosity flowing by giving something to someone else. So three months later when a woman I knew from my exercise class delivered her baby, I prepared and packed up a meal for her. Because friends had given to me, I had been inspired to make a meal for a woman whose last name I didn't even know. I remain friends with all three of these women.

Asking for help--or graciously accepting it when given--not only can meld new relationships, but it can deepen old ones. So often even our closest friends don't know what we think, how we truly feel, or what we need because we don't tell them. Human beings don't know what's in another person's head. Instead of feeling isolated or frustrated and expecting people to automatically know that we need them, we must initiate the conversation.

WE HAVE TO DISSOLVE OUR FEAR OF SHARing what we're really going through and trust that our loved ones will help us. As long as we communicate, we will know where we stand with another person.

Communication is especially important when we or our loved ones are in the midst of a personal or professional change. But all we have to do is talk honestly and we can learn how best to serve each other. For instance, when we are facing a major defeat at work or at home, our mother or brother or spouse may be enjoying the time of their lives. …

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