Yesterday, I was walking in Mercer Island to Orangetheory Fitness when I saw a man in his 40’s struggling to carry a heap of boxes. He halted on the corner of the sidewalk to reorganize his load. It was clear that this was no easy task for anyone, as the boxes continuously threatened to jump out of his arms and litter the concrete with their contents. I silently grappled with whether or not to help the man. In those 20 seconds several things crossed my mind while I weighed my options, but most prominently was my fear of rejection. But why should my own humility ever get in the way of helping someone?
I began to ponder this idea as I set down the boxes and bid the stranger farewell. We live in an individualist society where we are enveloped with pride and an inability to ask for or receive help. When I approached the man and asked if he needed assistance, I could sense his inner altercation do I sacrifice my ego to let this twenty year old help me? But this is no abnormal thought, as they are simply instilled in us Americans. Whether it be the fear of asking for further assistance in math class or not feeling comfortable asking for or accepting help carrying boxes down the street, we are terrified of this concept.
Furthermore, when we ask someone if they need help we are commonly assured that said person doesn’t need help though they thank us for the offer. This is additionally conditioning us to think people don’t need assistance. For example, a few weeks ago I had to move into my new house. I had gently asked a few friends to help, but only disclosed my dire need of assistance to those whom I felt wouldn’t pass any judgment. That being said, I really could’ve used the extra hands! I had to move my entire bedroom to a new house in a matter of hours, while also finishing two essays for the following day. Even more ridiculous, was the fact that I ended up having to ask for an extension on one of my papers because I was too prideful to truly explain my need of assistance. But why? Well, we are blinded by society’s imposition that help equals incapability and weakness:
If you ask for help, you are incapable and weak.
If you offer someone help, you are implying they are incapable or too weak to carry out the task by themself.
If someone asks you for help, you should be offended because that is telling you people perceive you as incapable and weak.
But nobody makes it through life without external support. Instead of carrying burdens or unnecessarily struggling with diverging facets of life, it’s important to learn to lean on those around you whether it be a simple monotonous task or a larger, more prominent one. With this in mind, I have made it my goal to break down these barriers in my own life and be okay with asking for, receiving, and offering help. Wouldn’t it be much more beneficial to live in a collectivist culture where we are okay asking for help, ultimately aiding one another in our daily and long term pursuits?
Conclusively, I graciously thank you Mr. Stranger for teaching me the importance of having a helping humility.