Sometimes I worry that I’m an over-helper.
When I hear that a friend has suffered a loss, or a family member is sick, or someone I love had a bad day, I immediately want to jump in with both feet and help. I’m the one who offers to get your mail, feed your dog, or fold your laundry. I’m the one who scours the internet for articles specific to your plight, sends them to you in an email, triple-checks every hour to make sure you know I sent them in that email, and then sends them to you in a text message just to be sure you got the info. I’m the one who wants to show up with a casserole, two pies, and a week’s worth of magazines.
I know, I know. I’m sure most of you are thinking, “Oh, she must be a nice friend to have!”
Maybe. But I worry.
A lot of my desire to help comes from that period in our lives when Brian had first been diagnosed with cancer. Each and every person—from the maintenance workers at the hospitals to the dear friends who dropped off sub sandwiches so we wouldn’t have to cook—were so very valuable to us. I’ll never forget the kindnesses we were shown–from friends, from family, from nurses and doctors and surgeons and techs. It was the only thing that kept us standing, kept us moving toward a destination rather than staying stagnant, cooped up in our own sorrow and fear.
And so, when I hear there’s trouble in the neighborhood, I feel called to action, ready to offer my services in any way, no matter what is needed.
I show up with my casserole and my two pies and my week’s worth of magazines, hoping that the help I’m offering is appreciated. Wanting to be helpful. Wanting to be valued. What I tend to forget, in my gusto, is that every person reacts differently in any given situation. Where I might be thrilled to my toes to hear the doorbell, my friend may rather be left in peace to deal with life in their own way.
And sometimes, their own way doesn’t include a stack of magazines three miles high.
I’m glad now, looking back, that I wasn’t given much time to grieve and worry and pace. Relieved that our friends and family filled the scariest moments with conversation, casseroles, and consolation. I know, for us, that it was exactly what we needed.
I think it makes sense, then, that my immediate reaction to a friend in need is to don my “Save The World” cape and swoop in to save the day. Often with baked goods and some form of mindless entertainment.
So I’m learning to offer a kind word instead of a pot of chicken noodle soup every once in awhile. I’m trying to hold back that part of me that wants to rush to everyone’s rescue when, in fact, they may not need rescuing at all. But above all else I’m trying to remember that, while a stack of magazines a mile high might just be the ticket to someone’s happiness, it might just be coffee table clutter for another one to deal with later.
But don’t worry. If you give me the green light, I’m still going to offer to bring them over. Especially if you haven’t read the latest issue of “O.” But I won’t be offended if you say no.