If There is Anything I can do, just call me

The previous entry brought this particular topic back to the forefront of my mind again. When something awful happens to you, or when someone close to you dies, everyone offers their assistance. Whether in person or via a note or card, the words vary little. “If there is anything at all I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask.” But you do. Hesitate. And invariably you don’t call. But when you do…well, be prepared to not be helped. And that is a best case scenario. The flipside is you will be made to feel as though you are inconviencing the person who so sincerely implored you to allow them to be useful in some small way in the first place. Or worse still, there is the bait and switch in which you ask for something very specific, the samaritan agrees and then turns around and tries to talk you into accepting some other form of “help” in its place. Usually something you don’t need that will actually make work for you but is easier, quicker, less burdensome for the person while still allowing him or her to feel as though another gold star has been placed behind his or her name in that book God uses to assess our worthiness of his love. A little fyi to all, the next time you are overcome with desire to offer your services in a crisis or to the newly bereaved, stop yourself. The last thing this person needs is another obligation on the to do list. It is a burden to be expected to ask for help when it is obvious to one and all that you actually need it. If you see something that needs to be done, simply ask the person if it is okay for you to go ahead and do it. Case in point, the winter after my husband’s diagnoses was a fairly snowy and blistering cold one. My daughter was too small to be outside with me while I shoveled our driveway and sidewalks, but I was very leery of leaving her indoors with her father. He was suffering from moderate dementia already and none too steady on his feet. So, my husband’s uncle called to offer his services to shovel the walks. He had a snowblower and a truck to haul it in. Great, I thought and told him sure. He replied, just let me know when you need me. If you can’t already see the problem then you don’t read very well. Needless to say, Uncle did not help me get the walks shoveled, I ended up with frostbite on all my toes, and my daughter developed a rather strong aversion to being alone with her dad. People mean well, but the road to hell is paved with their selfish souls. We all want to appear compassionate and seem helpful and that is about it. Actually rearranging our own lives to come to the aid of friends and family does not provide the same ego boost as just offering to. The last two days of my husband’s life, everyone descended on the hospice. This after mostly ignoring him for three months he was there. There is nothing like impending death to light a fire under relatives and friends. And they all uttered variations of the “whatever I can do” mantra. And even after nearly three years of mostly being let down, I still asked for help. I didn’t get it. My close friend, Vicki and her husband, were amazing as they had been all along. A few others came through with odds and ends. My aunt and my mother came running without hesitation. My father, who was quite ill himself, was wonderful. But, as for the rest, it was just words.

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