So a few weeks ago, I was in Sunny Supermarket buying some groceries. The lady in front of me realized she was $0.80 or so short for her order. So I told her I have change and tried to pay the balance. She was a little taken aback by my offer, promptly refusing and removing bananas from her load in an effort to bring the bill down.
I felt really sad in that moment. I realized how disconnected we all are. I can't even offer a fellow neighbour some change to help her bring home some bananas. How and when did we arrive at such a guarded lonely place?
I mean, I understand. We live in a time when we're taught to be strong, independent, with a facade of perfection, a portrayal that we don't struggle like the next person. This only serves to isolate both ourselves, and the other person - alienating us all in our human experience which each and every one of us truly understand. We are made to feel that it's a bad thing to accept help. We feel embarrassed, ashamed, like we've failed. Perhaps we feel like a burden.
This has been one of my biggest shadows in life - not wanting to feel like a burden on anyone and carrying the world on my shoulders in an effort to remain as independent and capable as possible. This has served me well in terms of developing my resourcefulness, and my resilience.
But I realize now that my insistence on not accepting anyone's help only serves to disconnect me from other people who genuinely want to help. Not everyone feels burdened by helping others. Some people have a need to help in fact, and it makes them feel good. How wonderful to imagine we could all step up and help each other in those little moments when we're feeling frazzled by life and everything is falling apart.
So this morning, I found myself in one of these very moments. I slept in somehow – all forces seemed to conspire to make this possible. My phone was dead and the alarm didn't ring (a modern feature of the 'smart' phone as I'm sure you remember the old cell phone alarms rang even when your phone was completely dead). My husband left for work, not wondering why I wasn't up. My 4-year-old daughter quietly sat in the living room sneaking candy out of a loot bag I took away from her last night, and so of course didn't wake me like she usually would. And by some freak force of nature, my 11-month-old son continued sleeping long past his usual time - so there went my back-up alarm. In a hurry, I got them ready and gave them a quick breakfast, before rushing out to drop my daughter to school and my son to daycare.
Once this chaos was over, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on my morning walk to Tim Horton's to get a coffee and some breakfast, and begin work, as I'm currently in the thick of going to press with two different publications simultaneously (a hectic time to say the least). But of course when I arrived, carefully chose my breakfast, and got to the front of the line at Tim's, I dug around my bag and realized, I had forgot my wallet at home in my hurry to get out the door. Life was frazzling me indeed.
Then, just as I left the line and thought about making the 25-minute trek back home to get my wallet, all the while reflecting on how much work time this ordeal might cost me, a really kind person said to me, 'don't worry, I'll cover you.' Of course my first instinct was to refuse. So I said, 'oh no, that's okay really, that's so kind of you'. He insisted, and I hesitated. 'I'm not sure I can accept that'…but my mind ran back to that moment in Sunny's when I so wanted to help the lady in front of me, but her pride didn’t allow it. I said to myself decisively, let me accept this offer from a super kind fellow human being (though I skipped the breakfast and just ordered a coffee). I was very appreciative, and he was also very glad to have started his day by helping me out.
This all reminds me of a concept I heard about a little while back at the Centre for Spiritual Living Toronto around being a ‘generous receiver’. We live in a universal connected flow. To give and give, and never receive, is not enough. We must both give and receive to remain connected and flowing in the organic circular energy we live in. There will be times in life where we give more or receive more, and where this exchange will be monetary, or will involve energy of another kind. But overall, we'll find ourselves balanced by the beauty of this give and take, with the many around us who can all relate exactly to what it means to be human.