I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of trouble asking people for help. Unless I do something for them, anything that they do for me feels like a handout. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend or a stranger, I feel like I’m falling into “favour debt”. I’m sure that anyone who’s ever helped me with anything was just being nice, so I don’t know where I ever got the impression that they were giving me a handout, but that’s how I feel in those situations regardless.Yesterday I ran out of gas twenty minutes outside of a town wherein I don’t know anyone*. That experience quickly put my irrationality about favours to the test, and forced me to gain a fresh perspective.When I was growing up, and even to this day, my family and I are always helping others:
- My mom volunteers extensively with the Special Olympics.
- I’ve met people on ferry crossings and offered (for my dad) to give them a ride on the other side.
- We’ve met people stranded in an airport and offered them a place to sleep.
- I’ve helped several friends move residences or take on home renovation projects.
- I’ve lent money to friends without any expectations as to when it would be payed back.
- Even a month ago we invited a traveling salesman (who came to our door) to stay for a home-cooked meal.
- And last week my neighbour died and I offered beds in my house any of his visiting family.
… just to name a few.
While I was sitting in the middle of nowhere, far from everything, deciding how to get out of this situation on my own, I thought back to all of those aforementioned experiences and more. Thinking about the times that I’ve helped others made me start to think that maybe it was okay to ask for help. I’m not going to say that it was easy, but I still can’t think of another option that I had.
I didn’t have a lot of money on me to pay for gas, so I started by texting & calling a few friends who had offered favours in the past. Some of them wouldn’t or couldn’t help me, but all it took was one to come through.
After I had enough money I needed a ride to a gas station, so I did another extremely difficult thing; I flagged down traffic to ask for a ride. I didn’t mind the embarrassment of venturing onto the highway without enough gas for the trip (we all make mistakes), but I felt incredibly uncomfortable with putting strangers out of their way to help me.
I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help, as long as you pay it forward. A few months ago a friend invited me to a concert, but refused to accept money for the tickets he had already paid for. The next evening, I paid for another friend’s dinner when she went to the bathroom. She likely did something nice for someone else soon after. Maybe that someone is you.
Instead of worrying about favour debt, from now on I plan to remember the karmic favour surplus I’ve built up, and continue to add to it.
And I’ll be sure to keep a spare jerry can in my car from now on.
* I do know one person, but I certainly didn’t want to burden the girl that I just had a (hopefully) good first date with.