526. Difficulty and Help

Not everyone who is having difficulty wants to be helped. Of course, there are people who hang on to pride when they’d really be better off letting go of it. They turn away help they really do need, or at least help that would make their lives much easier. Some even react to offers of help as if such offers are insults. They’re proud of what they can do on their own (or what they THINK they can do on their own), and they consider offers of help to be insinuations that they aren’t as able as they believe they are.
A friend once thanked me for not being that way – for clearly stating what kind of help I needed. I was moving from an apartment to a condominium, and I mobilized about thirty people to move all my belongings. Well, not ALL my belongings; I moved my toothbrush, hairbrush, and a few other things. But just about all of my moving was done by people more able than myself. I don’t like the tendency people have to answer “Thank you” with “No, thank YOU,” but when my friend thanked me for asking for help, I had to remind myself not to send the thanks right back to her. I smiled, and said, “You’re welcome.” (But later on, I did thank her – not just for helping me, but also for thanking me for letting her help me.)
The difficulty I would have had moving my own things is not a perfect example of what I’m trying to discuss; I could not possibly have moved my own belongings, and I had to either ask friends for help or hire movers. But that difficulty works as an extreme case. There are people who need help only a little less than I do, and because of pride, don’t ask for or accept it. And yet there are people who really need to give it. Knowing those two bits of human nature, I understand why my friend thanked me for clearly stating my needs.
I’m still not thoroughly evolved on this issue; there are still times when I turn down help I could really use. I’m still used to being more able than I am now, and some appropriate offers of help remind me of real deterioration I’m not yet ready to recognize. Someone offers to hold a door for me, and I say “No, thank you,” and then, with difficulty, I roll through the doorway on my own, operating my electric scooter with my weak right hand while I hold the door with my strong left one. And if that offer of help comes from someone who needs to help, I don’t help them meet that need. The only winner is my inappropriate pride.
Right from the start, children are proud of what they can do. They’re sometimes proud of what they CAN’T actually do, but THINK they can. And so they try things that don’t work. It can be hard to know when to intervene; sometimes efforts born of pride lead to success and learning. But children live in a world full of people who CAN do many things that children CAN’T do, and would be better off not trying. So one of the difficult jobs we have as teachers and parents is to know when to help and when to let difficulty do its thing.

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