Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Swing Set

Mr. Jones wanted to build his son a swing set. He slaved away each evening and grew tired and irritable causing concern for his wife.

“You’re working so hard,” she said. “Wasn’t our neighbor, Mr. Williams, a carpenter when he was young? Couldn’t you ask him for help?”

“But Mr. Williams has done enough work in his life. I wouldn’t want to bother him.”
So Mr. Jones kept working, until finally the swing set was finished, and he set it up in the backyard. A few days later, Mr. Jones went outside and found Mr. Williams gazing at the swing set.

“Hi, Mr. Williams. How do you like the new swing set?”

“Oh, it’s wonderful. I built something like that for my son many years ago.” His eyes looked sad, and Mr. Jones remembered that Mr. Williams’ son had moved far away for a job.

“I wish you had told me you were building it,” Mr. Williams said. “Your son is a good boy. I would have loved to help you do something nice for him.”

They chatted for another minute, and Mr. Jones went inside, realizing for the first time that Mr. Williams was lonely.

This story tells us we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Many would appreciate the opportunity to help if only they were given that option. An act of kindness is a joy to both the giver and the receiver.

So why is it so difficult to ask for help?

Probably we don’t want to be seen as a burden, out of control or incompetent.

Asking for help also makes us vulnerable to criticism and unwelcome advice. What if Mr Jones hadn’t asked for help because he thought that Mr Williams would criticize his swing set design and try to change it because of his knowledge of carpentry?

On the other hand it can be just as difficult to offer help for much the same reasons.
We don’t want anyone to feel that they are a burden, out of control or incompetent. Assuming Mr Williams knew Mr Jones was having trouble building the swing set he may have been hesitant to offer help because he didn’t want to seem interfering.

What a dilemma!

When someone asks for help only give it if you truly can. Recognize the courage it took them to ask. Never agree to do something that will cause you to feel resentful and put upon. Help them find alternatives instead. Saying “no” will also encourage them to ask again if they need help with something else. They know you will say no if you can’t and if you do say yes, they won’t feel they’re a burden.

On the other hand, never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You never know how reaching out will affect the other person unless you reach out. If they can truly help your burdens will be relieved. If you feel more burdened and resentful it could be they are not helping at all, but trying to manipulate and control you.

Being able to give and receive help is a gift to the giver and the receiver. I think The Swing Set story tells us that asking for help or offering someone help is definitely worth the risk because of the potential rewards giving and receiving help is capable of giving.

Lovely Thoughts for Lovely People Just Like You

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