It's always seemed strange to me that people are perfectly comfortable adding expensive china, crystal, and 1,000 thread count sheets to a wedding registry. And they are perhaps even more comfortable adding expensive items to a baby registry. But then, when it comes to asking for help, help that is truly and genuinely needed, they shut down. "I can't do that." "I don't want to seem greedy." That's probably the biggest hurdle I see with my job every day.
There seems to be a social stigma against asking for help; like we are supposedly weak if we have to ask others to help us with certain things. When we ask for wedding or baby registry items, there can be a sense of strength or pride as these are both very happy and exciting events in a person's life. But when the items are related to an illness or the loss of a loved one, that happiness is lost and replaced by sadness or "weakness". When in reality, friends and family seem to be more willing and ready to help in situations of true need and disparity.
A mom of triplets who had a great deal of help while her babies were in the NICU told me that she felt greedy and was not comfortable asking for more help with the babies because they were nearly 6 months old and she'd already had so much help. I can't think of anyone who would think a mom of triplets was greedy for needing help with meals, laundry, or caring for THREE babies, but yet it was a theme I was used to hearing.
Even my best friend struggled with this. It was so hard for me to stand by and watch, because I knew she was going to need a great deal of help after a mastectomy. But I also knew I had to respect her wishes. After surgery, she came around to the concept pretty quickly and was so relieved by the back up plan we had in place for help with the kids, the dog, and especially meals. Once she was able to graciously accept the help, she experienced the power of what friends do in a time of need.
Those who offer to help look at it as "the least I can do", while those in need don't want to be a bother. People in need of assistance don't understand that by giving their friends and loved ones a way to help, they are making life easier for them too. For friends who want to help, it's a big relief knowing what they are doing is truly wanted and needed. It also avoids unwanted pop-in visits, 3 lasagnas showing up on the same day, and care packages that may go to waste.
We're trying to change this stigma and help people understand that their friends want to buy them items when they are in need just as much as they want to buy a gift when someone gets married or has a baby. In fact, I think it's a pretty safe bet that they would rather buy a friend recovering from surgery a restaurant gift card or comfy slippers than buying a quesadilla maker or crystal candlesticks for newlyweds. The next time you or someone you know is in a place of need, think about how you could effectively ask for help or encourage your friend to ask for help. Because, as friends and loved ones we all want to make a difference.