August 15, 2012

Laying Aside My Pride

Why is it so painfully hard to ask for help? It's hard to accept help to begin with, but it's even harder to have to ask for it. Most people that I know, if discovering that someone they know needs help, would jump at the chance to help in any way they could. I'm the same way. If you need something, I will do whatever I can to help, whether it's with time, money, food, transportation, whatever. I am happy to help. It makes me feel good to know that I can help someone else out, especially given all the times that people have helped me. So why, when the situation is reversed, is it so hard to accept that which people are freely offering?

In general, being self-employed is a "feast or famine" way of life and one we've grown used to. But these past two years have been an especially crazy sort of ride. In 2010, MC's work was very slow and we survived mainly on the earnings from the 56 craft shows that we did that year. In 2011, we decided to move to TX to be with his family. MC only moved after securing a job--that promptly fell through once he arrived in TX. After a month and a half, he found another job and the rest of us moved as well. But his job was an hour to an hour and a half away. There were some short work days that didn't even pay for the gas it took to get to work and back. I worked for a few months as a newborn photographer at the hospital (best job ever), but I ended up in the same boat--some days I didn't even earn enough to pay for my gas. After my company cut my pay by $2 an hour, I had to quit. MC soon had to quit his job as well since it was costing him more than he was making. The hunt for new jobs began...and lasted for 4 months. That was 4 months that we had minimal income coming in. Four months in which we just got further behind in our bills.

Unfortunately, this isn't a lonely boat to be in. I know all too many people who are in the same position. Out of work, constantly putting in resumes and going on interviews, but there are just too many people up for the few jobs available. During this time, a dear friend made the mistake of asking how I was doing. That is the magic key that opens the floodgates in Slacker Mom world. I'll be fine and can hold everything together until someone asks that dreaded question. Then the waterworks start. I dumped everything on her and I'm sure she regrets ever asking that but it was too late.

Over the next few months, my friend took it upon herself to organize a food drive for us as well as buy us a refrigerator as we only had a mini, college-size one to keep our limited food in. She and her husband also arranged to help us get our vans repaired enough to pass inspection so they could be registered with TX. Then they got us a meeting with the elders of our church who paid our overdue phone bill so we could get our phones turned back on and enable us to receive call backs on our resumes and interviews. I am forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of my friend and her husband, as well as the members of our church for helping us out when we needed it the most. However, admitting that we needed that help, much less accepting it, was painful. I mean, stomach churning, head pounding awful. I nearly choked on my pride in admitting that life was not all wonderful. It's a humiliating position to be in when you have to accept help. To stand in front of people you respect and see on a regular basis and admit to them that you have failed, that you aren't able to take care of your family is the worst feeling in the world. It doesn't matter if it's your fault or if circumstances were just out of control, it's shameful. I'm not saying that's right to feel that way, I'm just saying how it feels. It's hard to make eye contact with someone who has a full time job and plenty of food and a car that runs while telling them you can't pay your rent and you have no food in your cupboard. To have to stand in line for free handouts from the people you are friends with just so your kids will have school supplies is a horrible feeling.

But I don't think it's supposed to be that way. Somewhere along the line, whether it's that whole pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps American mentality or if it's due to the insular, autonomous way we live our lives, we lost that communal what's-yours-is-mine-and-what's-mine-is-yours way of life that the early Christians demonstrated in Acts. They came together and gave of what they had to help those who needed it---willingly. I believe this is how it was meant to be. Not the way the government wants to tax the richest or take from those who have to make everyone equals, but as a community that willingly gives to those who need it. As my friend pointed out when I tried hard to refuse her help, Jesus wants us to give, He commands us to help the needy. If we refuse to allow others to help when they can, we are keeping them from doing what Jesus asked of them. So then the only question remains, "Can I swallow my pride long enough to allow the help that is so freely given and that I so desperately need?" To refuse is not only insulting to those who want to help, but it's sheer stupidity as well.

That doesn't make the pill any easier to swallow.