The other day while I was at work I received a text message from a friend of mine asking me what my day was like. I asked her what was up and this was her reply:

“The kids and I are sick and have been all weekend. I want some comfort food. I can’t bear the thought of opening another can of Campbell’s. I’m wondering if you’re not busy if you could make us a simple soup. And you know how I HATE to ask.”

We all hate to ask, but the truth is sometimes we find ourselves in need and it just doesn’t seem right to deny others the opportunity to serve while we sit there sick, or needing a ride or a friends or a listening ear. I went home from work that day and cheerfully made some savory chicken vegetable soup, and a batch of these amazing biscuits. I was thrilled that my friend would ask and that her simple request turned what would have been yet another night of menial labor—figuring out what to fix for dinner—into an act of deliberate and loving service. Service which I was not only able to share with my family and hers, but also with another member of our ward who I knew was ill. I was also humbly reminded that perhaps I should perform all menial tasks in my life as labors of love.

All because my friend had asked.

Perhaps part of the reason my friend was not afraid to ask (even as badly as she hated to) is because on a few occasions in the past (even as badly as I hated to) I’ve texted her and asked her if she was free to give one of my kids a ride up to campus (or whatever). Sometimes she was free and gave my kid a ride (she likes my kids, or I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask). Sometimes she’s not and she tells me so (also why I have the nerve to ask–she’s not afraid to tell me “No.” I know not to take it personally when she does).

We’re all aware of so many wonderfully inspiring stories of people who were moved to call, visit or take food to someone who was truly in need at a particular moment. I have complete confidence in the Spirit. But I recognize that I’m kind of thick-headed. I failed Mind-reading 101. Our lives are so full of things to do and places to be. It’s easy to be distracted by the busyness of it all–church, work, home, play, whatever. Some of us need a less subtle hint.

I appreciate the courtesy of someone who is not afraid to tell me what she needs.

What about you? Are you able to ask for what you need? How do you take an “I’m sorry, but no?” Can you accept a “Yes” without guilt when it comes?

23 Comments

  1. La Yen

    March 29, 2011

    This year I have been really guided by the Holy Ghost to ask for help. (I truly believe it would be easier for me to cut out a kidney with a trowel than to consistently ask for help, by the by.) And–get this–every time I ask for help people respond BY HELPING ME. There might be something to this crazy lifestyle…

  2. Amira

    March 29, 2011

    This post compared with yesterday’s is interesting. I think there are times when it’s easy to help someone else, but there are other times when it’s not so easy, like when you’re dreading receiving one of those Sunday morning phone calls. I’m happy to make dinner for someone, but teaching their class of 15-year-olds isn’t so high on my list, nor is substituting for Sharing Time. And knowing that I don’t want to help everyone in every situation (tacky, I know, but that’s the way I feel) makes it much harder for me to ask others for help.

  3. Eliana

    March 29, 2011

    I love that she knew she could say it! Having a person you can be real with is such a blessing. I’ve had to learn how to ask for help much more since having kids–there are things I need that I can’t do myself at times.

  4. JayA

    March 29, 2011

    Recently I was the sick one and when a good friend asked if she could help me (a good enough friend that we do say no to each other as much as we say yes when asked). After saying “no, it’s fine” a couple of times I ended up saying yes and my family was the recipient of yummy chicken noodle soup, bread and cookies. We felt very loved and cared for – even the kids got that it was a special moment of service. I need to say yes more often, as well as offer service, so they learn how to serve and be served. Such a blessing to have good friends.

  5. Pained

    March 29, 2011

    What a blessing to have such a friend that you could call and ask. I loved this story.

  6. Gerb

    March 29, 2011

    When I was laid up recently I had no choice but to rely on the help of others. When people made offers of help, I learned to graciously and gratefully accept them instead of saying, “Thank you but we’re fine” as I had often done in the past. It was a huge lesson for me to learn because I liked to serve others but not be the recipient of it. Now I know how much I was missing out on. When someone wants to do something kind for me why would I say no?

    Great post, Dalene.

  7. Lucky Red Hen

    March 29, 2011

    Helped a friend recovering from her January heart failure (she was brought back to life FOUR times!) and emergency c-section (she was 7.5mos preg with her 4th when her heart stopped) with her 3 kids the other day for two hours. Even though it’s OBVIOUS she’ll need continual help (at least through July), it’s still hard for her to accept/ask for help.

  8. traci

    March 29, 2011

    what a wonderful friendship. i have had a few like that – and it is a wonderful gift, both ways.
    i am becoming friends with a woman now, who asked for music reading lessons and yogurt starter this week – it made me feel so good!

    i will ask help for the furbabies, but it is to a friend we pay. not same thing. this is a part of me i need to stretch

    beautiful post!

  9. Grandma Honey

    March 29, 2011

    I always feel it is such a honor when someone feels comfortable enough with me to ask for a favor. I love knowing there is a need and being told just what that need is.

  10. Ana of the Nine Kids

    March 29, 2011

    I love friendships like this–“mutual mooching” is how Amy Dacyczyn describes them. I have several friends like this and I LOVE it. I don’t ask for help very often but when I do I feel good about it b/c I know these friends will ask me for help when they need it too. What is hard for me sometimes are the “friendships” in which someone feels comfortable asking you to do things that you don’t feel comfortable doing and you have a hard time saying no about either–like when someone wants you to babysit a lot for them and you are pretty sure it is not an emergency. (I guess I should mention that I usually HATE babysitting.) How do you handle those? 🙂

  11. Dalene

    March 29, 2011

    Grandma Honey–that is exactly how I feel, honored that someone feels comfortable enough to ask. It is an honor to serve someone.

    Ana of the Nine Kids–Along with learning to accept service graciously, I think most of us struggle to know how to say “No” when we need to. So good luck with that. On a personal note, I don’t think anyone should ask a mother of nine to babysit for them. 🙂

  12. Liv

    March 29, 2011

    i made a goal in 2010 to be better at asking for help.

    i think the only way i’ve fulfilled that goal is by asking friends to watch my daughter, aspen. i get really nervous because i don’t want to inconvenience anyone. but perhaps it’s just what they needed? maybe? yes? i’ll take this post as a reminder that sometimes we rejoice in service.

  13. Amy Hackworth

    March 29, 2011

    Great post, Dalene. I like this–the asking and the giving. Both are great reminders.

  14. handsfullmom

    March 29, 2011

    I have a friend who astounds me (in a good way) with how easy it is for her to ask others for help. She’s a wonderful woman who isn’t afraid to ask for simple favors, and people love to help. Like once, we had just made our kids microwave popcorn when she dropped by. At the end of our visit, she said, “I wonder, do you have another packet of that popcorn? It smells so lovely I’d love to have some.” Another time, she asked for sanitary unmentionables right after a move.

    I, on the other hand, would go thirsty rather than trouble someone for a drink of water. My knee jerk reaction to any solicitation to help me is “I’m fine.” I would have spent forty minutes at the store buying the unmentionable rather than the two minutes it took my friend to borrow one for me. How stupid am I? I guess I have the mental block that it is a sign of weakness to need someone’s help.

    Ana, I actually don’t mind babysitting usually, as long as it’s during a time when I’m home and they bring their kids to my house. It gives my kids something to do and it’s a lot easier for me to help out that way than many of the other types of service, most of which require me to leave home.

    I

  15. Christy

    March 29, 2011

    I know I’m missing the point, but this reminded me: once a good friend of mine was asked by a ward member (Compassionate Services leader, or something?) to make dinner for a sick family. My friend had just had a baby and was missing a kitchen, literally. It was all ripped out for renovation. She regretfully declined, and the other lady BULLIED her until she finally agreed. Whereupon she drove fifteen city miles, newborn in tow, to cook the meal in someone else’s kitchen.

    I wish she (my friend) had called me for help. I suppose that’s how I can tie this all in to your post, which, by the way, I love.

  16. Catherine A.

    March 29, 2011

    “I was also humbly reminded that perhaps I should perform all menial tasks in my life as labors of love.”

    I so needed this today Dalene. Thank you. And I’m pretty sure I failed Mind-Reading 101 too. Wonderful post.

  17. Melissa M.

    March 29, 2011

    Loved this post as well, Dalene. I am terrible at asking anyone for help. Terrible. Yet I feel honored when others ask me for help. I think I’ve missed out on a lot by not asking for help from time to time. It means I keep people at arm’s length, and I miss out on some of those sweet moments of friendship and service that bind us to each other.

    My VT companion is going in for surgery tomorrow, and I offered to bring her a meal on Thursday. She said, “Yes, I will gratefully accept your offer to help, because I love you.” I will remember her words the next time I need help but am afraid to ask. Acts of service foster love, both in the giver and the receiver.

  18. Tami Jo

    March 29, 2011

    A woman in the ward and I both had our 4th children within weeks of each other, but we weren’t really friends. We both had nursing troubles (me: too little milk, her: too much) and lamented the pain together. As she told me her story, I gasped when she said she dumped the milk down the drain cuz she couldn’t store it all. Telling her that I would gladly take it off her hands was the beginning of an intensely wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship.

  19. Dovie

    March 30, 2011

    So should be in bed but I have been blessed with wonderful neighbors, friends, family and even on occasion complete strangers that have graced my life with service. Sometimes because they asked and sometimes just because they saw a me floundering. One incident involving a stranger in the time before regular cell phone use I ran over something and got a flat tire with a baby and a van full of preschoolers, only one of them my own. A well dressed older gentleman stopped as I was trying to figure out the folding jack and laid down in the mud and assisted me in changing a tire (read changed tire entirely himself). Once my sister in law in seeing my frazzled desperation one early evening when I was scheduled to host book group at my house, which was in shambles, told me to put a sign on my front gate and direct all my lady friends over across the circle to her house offering to hold it there, which we did, she isn’t even in my book group, not that I haven’t tried to get her to join up. Another time a different (but equally sweet) sister in law and later a wonderful visiting teacher listened and comforted and counseled me as I poured out some of the most secret chambers of my heart. One day in highschool I left early emotionally distraught, feeling all alone in the world. Silently praying while I cried and walked home that I could just needed a hug, some sort of other worldly manifestation that my Heavenly Father was there that he loved me. Not a minute later a woman stopped her car and got out just a few feet in front of me and said, “This is going to sound really strange but I passed you before I had this overwhelming impression that I should stop, tell you it is going to be ok, and that you really needed a hug. So much that I had to circle the block and come back. I know it is going to be ok, and if it is not too weird can I give you a hug?” we stood there and the street an and talked together and cried and hugged. Not that I recommend hugging random strangers, but this was an answer to my prayer and a sublime humble act of service. These and a thousand more, I will forever be in debt, it does feel like a gift to me again when I get the opportunity serve. Though right now I feel streched to my limit but I know that there are ways that I can that will make a difference if I will just listen to the spirit.

  20. handsfullmom

    March 30, 2011

    Dovie, I just read your post and I’m in tears. Thank you for sharing those experiences.

  21. Cheri

    March 31, 2011

    “her simple request turned what would have been yet another night of menial labor—figuring out what to fix for dinner—into an act of deliberate and loving service.”

    love this.

  22. Jannifer

    March 31, 2011

    Thank you for this article! And thank you Dovie for your experiences that you shared. It really touched me. Asking for help is really hard for me, just like many others who have commented.

    Just a few weeks ago our family was facing our share of hardships. One night when I was feeling overwhelmed, I prayed for help. The next morning I received an email from a dear friend letting me know she was thinking about me. I almost responded in a cheerful manner saying everything was great. However, the prayer from the night before came to my mind. I was hesitant to do so, but I instead opened up and told her what trials were going on. She showed up that night with dinner in hand that fed us for a couple meals and was a wonderful listening ear. It was exactly what I needed. Plus, I feel like this experience has strengthen our friendship.

    I’m still working on having the courage to ask for help right away. However, I am grateful that my friend was prompted to email me when she did.

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