Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Think I Got it Wrong

Sometimes ... well, just sometimes ...

I was picking up a couple bottles of flavoured water in the store. This brand claimed to use natural, organic, flavouring but that wasn't their major selling point. They were the cheapest - the store brand in fact. I had loaded a couple into my bag and was looking over the shelf to decide on another flavour. A woman came over, asked very nicely, if she could reach something for me. I told her, genuinely that it was a nice offer but that I was fine. "You sure, now?" she asked. I said that I was. She smiled and headed off.

The bottle I had decided on was a little higher but I have a long reach. I wondered if I should have let her help me. Sometimes I get the feeling that my allowing them to give to me is a way for me to give to them. I know. I know. I know everything that's wrong with that. Because I get intrusive help and angry responses at refusals I am wary of any offer at all. However, I turned her down because I really could do it.

I understand this because there are some times where the best thing that Joe can do to help me is to let me help him. He does so much for me, things I can't do anymore, that there are times that I feel that i want to give back. The same is true in the world ... I want to give back too. I like holding the door open for someone coming after, I like giving directions to tourists in the city, I like trying to be as good at giving as I need to be at taking.

And that was a moment I think I got wrong.

I could have do it and did do it.

But I think I got less out of that than she did.

I think I need to brush up on my discernment skills.

Have you ever felt that maybe you made a wrong call about something like this?


Tamara said...

This one is, in my opinion, impossible. I think if you go by a general rule that when you need help, you'll take it if offered or ask if there is someone to ask. And, if you don't need help, you'll politely refuse it (the first time). Then you're good.

I understand why you want to help Joe when you can. You're partners in life, and most of us like to do our part. When we feel like we can't, it can be difficult.

But it's impossible to discern when you should and should not help or should and should not accept help from a stranger.

Instead of brushing up on your discernment skills, I think you'd need to develop a sixth ... or maybe seventh ... sense ...


Glee said...

yep, but even we are not perfect Dave lol :)

Anonymous said...

I think yes is a nicer word to say and hear than no. So I have a mantra for myself, why say no when you can say yes? It’s hard to do but I think it’s the way to go.

Liz said...

From the perspective of a very short person, I think it's really hard to accept help to get things that are at the bitter edge of my reach. I want to be able to reach them myself, but sometimes it's iffy.

When I need help to get something just out of my reach, I tend to ask the shortest person nearby who is still taller than me.

I'm not saying you made the wrong call, but I think that the other call wouldn't have been wrong either.

CL said...

Yes, I definitely relate to this. Some time ago, I had the realization that I often refuse when people try to do favors for me -- offering to pay for my drink, or to help me in some other way. And I've started to force myself to accept what is offered and to say thank you.

However, I still won't compromise when I feel like a favor means something else -- that someone thinks I can't do something, or that some guy thinks buying my drink entitles him to something. I don't think you should ever feel pressured to accept a "favor" from someone who is underestimating your abilities.

But when favors seem like a sincere effort to be nice to another human, I think the person really wants to help and feels bad when I reject the offer. So I've learned to put aside my awkwardness and say "Thanks so much" at those times. I think it makes them happier than if I refused and they kept their money (or whatever).

Jeannette said...

Dave, I don't think you got it wrong at all. It sounds like a friendly exchange, an exchange on equal terms. Whatever you chose to respond to that woman would have been right.
What's wrong about it is that you're beating yourself up over it. On the other hand, questioning oneself is maybe what keeps you fresh and honest.
It's all good...

Mary said...

Frequently! But, we're talking here about split-second decisions about things which ultimately aren't that important. I'd say "wrong" is too harsh a word. Yes, you considered it afterwards and felt that your decision was not the optimum outcome, but neither was it a harmful decision - no one was rude to anyone, no one was offended or hurt by anyone.

Kimberly said...

Whenever you make a comment about how wrong it is to let people help you for them and not for you, I sort of cringe. It isn't always about giving them a noble feeling or the various things you have said in the past. Sometimes it is allowing people to show their love for others. I often let my in-laws do things for us because it is how they show their love. It allows them to express something for us in a way they are comfortable with. Other times it is that people have define their worth in helping others and I don't think that this is a completely bad thing either. Unless the areas you live and visit are completely different from mine there are genuinely helpful people that would offer this help to anyone that needs it. If you don't need the help and would rather do it yourself, that's fine, but I also think that taking that help isn't necessarily wrong either. I allow people to open and hold doors for me and my kids and I'm hoping that when it is more difficult for me to manage on my own that I will still allow people to help me even though I might not need it.

theknapper said...

Sometimes I think there are several good choices to make....just important knowing that another road could be taken but neither would get you lost.

theknapper said...

You may have been wrong but no harm was done.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

I make wrong calls all the time. I eat my foot a lot, too.

Maybe it was a mistake to turn down her offer to help, but Dave, it wasn't WRONG, in the sense that I think you think it is. (Wow, awkward sentence, sorry!)

Does that make sense?

Deb said...

I'm pretty short and disabled to boot, and I not only accept help when it's offered, I will look for a tall young person nearby and ask for help. Most *beam* at being asked and often ask if they can help me further.

Maybe it's because I was raised in an era (and in the Southern US) when being courteous and helpful were lessons you learned early, just as you were taught to receive kindness with grace and appreciation.

I love these little exchanges of kindness. They make both of our days brighter. There's so much ugliness and pain in the world.

The last time I went shopping I asked a heavily tatooed and pierced skinhead in a muscle shirt to reach an item for me, and he melted like a snowcone on a hot day. I thanked him for his kindness and told him I hoped his day was going well. He was as sweet as could be. He could have been a drug dealer and a serial killer for all I know, but for that moment he was just a kind young man, who took pleasure in helping a small lady with a walker.

What does it cost to say, "Thank you, that's very kind," when someone opens a door or reaches for an item you are struggling to reach?

Able-bodied people hold doors for each other all the time, tall ones reach items for short ones, people pick up dropped items and chase down the person who dropped it.

It's part of living in a civil society, and whether you walk or wheel (and I do both) I don't believe we should refuse another person the pleasure of being kind.


Purpletta said...

Hi -
Well first off I make the wrong call many times every day, but think that is part of who we are and taking a step back and reflecting on decisions we have made and might make in the future is healthy and makes us stronger and better people. (my opinion)
That said, I don't think you made a wrong decision.
Offering "Help" is an act of kindness but also one of respect. It should presume equality, acknowledgment of one another as valuable, respect of a person's right to decide if s/he is to accept help, when to accept it, what type of help and how it should be provided, and likewise when to decline help.
I would gently pose the question - if you were working with a group of self-advocates, would you suggest to them that part of their responsibility when being offered help is to consider accepting in order to make the "giver" of the aide feel better for having helped?
Love your blog, Dave, and the opportunity to hear and think about so many really important issues. Thank you for all you do!

Rachel in Idaho said...

It bugs me a little sometimes if somebody asks if I need help reaching something when I'm looking at a shelf at something well within my reach - but they aren't going to know what I am looking at unless it's in my hand, now are they? And they did ask, not jump in to "help" first. And if I need help, I will most certainly ask! I don't see anything wrong with declining help with you don't need it, or even if you could use it but it's not totally necessary.

This entire issue is way too dependent on circumstances to have one answer - in your situation, I don't think you did anything actually wrong, though. Personally I am inclined to deny help if I think I have even a tiny chance of pulling something off, sometimes to my detriment! But if that bottle of hot sauce is way too high, and you ask if I need help, I am most certainly going to take you up on it. (Why, oh why, grocery store, do you stock the Sriracha SO DANG HIGH??? And thank you nice guy in that aisle yesterday.)

I love the looks on people's faces when I hold doors for them if I get to them first. It's like I'm breaking some sort of social contract rule concerning gender and disability all in one!

Kristine said...

Like others said, I don't think your decision was "wrong," but if you feel it wasn't the "best" decision, that may be the case. Sometimes I say no to unnecessary or unwanted help, but I try to be very friendly and make it clear that I do appreciate the offer. I think offering (not forcing) help is a habit that everyone should develop, so I like to positively reinforce it when I can!

Other times I'll accept help that I don't necessarily need, but it does make my life slightly easier for a moment, so why not? Why not have a short, positive connection with another person? I never think less of somebody when I'm the help giver, so I don't feel like it's demeaning to be the help receiver.

I also appreciate the comments made about receiving help from the heavily tattooed skinheads, or the short-but-not-quite-as-short people, etc. I also often prefer to ask for help, when I need it, from those society might see as "unlikely/unapproachable sources." I got over a lot of my own prejudices a very long time ago, when I realized that people I used to judge as being hard/edgy/scary, were just as friendly as anybody else, and sometimes seemed to appreciate being approached and trusted that way. My personal favorite has been the times I've been able to use my Spanish to ask a quick favor from people who don't speak much English. I think that as a linguistic/racial/cultural minority, they're used to needing assistance, to being ignored, and to struggling to communicate. It actually seems to delight people that I'm making the effort to learn and communicate in their native language, and that I would approach them to ask assistance. Like building a teensy little bridge over a major divide in our society. And it feels good. I enjoy the moment of connection, of remembering we're all part of the same community.

wendy said...

When I was a teenager (which was NOT yesterday!) I was on my way out of shopping center when I saw a young man with CP in a wheelchair struggling with a pay phone receiver. I walked past him, headed for the exit. I got a few steps past him and shook my head. What, I asked myself, is wrong with you?? I went back and asked first "Do you need some help?" The man indicated that he did. I then asked whether he was trying to get the phone off the hook or put it back on. He was trying to hang it up. So, I took the receiver and put the phone back on the hook for him.
If he'd said that he didn't need help, though, I'd have been fine with that. I really don't think I had any vested interest in him accepting my assistance, I just felt that I should offer.