Friday, January 14, 2011
No Man is an Island
Despite being the baby in my family and having taken full advantage of a generous Mom who spoiled me by making me special requested snacks when I was comfy and lounging after my school day, on many occasions in my life I have been most independent. I rarely ask for help, preferring instead to figure things out on my own. My husband has come home to redesigned rooms with heavy furniture placed in new arrangements. I prefer to do research than to bother people with simple inquiry questions, even if it'll take me longer to get to the answer, and I tackle new tasks relying on my own determination to make sense of the situation at hand. For the most part, I believe this character trait of mine to be a good one.
But every once in awhile, I'm thrown a curve ball and I have to ask for help. That happened today when one of my children developed a fever at school and needed to be brought home. I was a good 30 miles away at work, had a demanding schedule of classes ahead of me, and was without my own car as I had driven to work with my husband, a rare occurrence given our different after-school schedules. What was I to do?
I felt torn. My first inclination was to leave work, travel back home, pick up my ill teen, then return to work. But I knew I couldn't make it back in time before my next class. I wondered if I should ask my principal for a substitute but I thought also of the slew of students who would be upset that I hadn't been there for them on the last day of the quarter with midterms approaching the next week. If only I could be instantly cloned or have supernatural powers! The nurse at my daughter's high school had suggested I have someone swing by to bring my girl home. "She'll be fine if she can just get a little more sleep I think", the nurse had said. Great. But that would mean picking up the phone and asking for help from someone close to home.
I heard words from my childhood. "No man is an island". But I wasn't comforted. Who could help me out? Wouldn't everyone be busy with their day? Should I ask someone to go pick up my sick daughter? Was that even appropriate? Shouldn't I do it myself? But despite these nagging insecurities I picked up my cell phone and started scrolling through my phone book. Wanda and Michelle were definite possibilities. But I didn't have Wanda's home number, only her cell, and my message quickly went to her voice mail. I then realized I didn't have Michelle's number on my cell. Why was that? I quickly sent both of them an email but I knew I needed more options. I searched online for Wanda's home phone number as she runs a business from her home and I found it. But the line was busy for a solid 10 minutes straight. Maybe it wasn't the right number? I thought of my cousin Cathy and immediately felt bad when I realized I hadn't been in touch with her since the last time I'd needed a favor. I felt low. But I called her anyway and unable to reach her too, I left another message.
I continued to scroll down my list of friends and family. Most lived too far away. "I need to put more local numbers on this cell phone", I thought to myself. I saw Kim's name. She would be the one I'd call if I was delayed in picking up my son from After Care. Should I ask her? Something had taken over me now. I called her number. Another voice mail box. Another message left.
By this time I realized I needed an old fashioned phone book. I was on a roll. I began to think of a few more people I could call to ask for help, but as I flipped through the pages of the teacher's room phone book, my cell phone rang. What a glorious sound! It was Cathy. She was to be my savior once again. And get this, she was happy to help.
I would end up talking to Kim in the next 10 minutes and she too made a point of saying she would have been more than willing to drive over to the high school for me. Wanda and Michelle, who coincidentally had been on the phone with one another when I had tried to call Wanda earlier, both emailed me messages saying similar words of support.
My daughter arrived home safely with Cathy's assistance and slept off her fever. My students, never realizing their teacher's stress, bounded into my room with last minute questions and with hands full of work to be turned in on the last day of the quarter, and I rode home with my husband at the end of the long day.
It is perhaps a noble goal to be self sufficient and independent. But it's also perfectly okay to ask friends and family for help, even when you would prefer to move heavy furniture on that pretty island of yours with your own hands. Burdens are lighter with the occasional assistance of others. Their love and compassion is greater than I often take time to realize. I must remind myself that I would be quick to offer them assistance so why wouldn't they want to do the same for me? I am vowing to remember this in the future. But I still doubt that I'll ask my husband for help moving the couch. Between you and me? I don't want his input on where to put it.