Monday, August 8, 2011

Helpful is not a four-letter word

We spent the weekend in Bend, OR at a soccer tournament.  M’s team was amazing, going into playoff games on Sunday as number one in their bracket.  They played a very tough final game, losing in overtime, penalty kicks.  It was a hard way to lose and a triumphant way to lose…they were proud leaving the field.

After the game, many of us spent a lazy afternoon floating the Deschutes River, soaking each other with water guns and enjoying a camaraderie built on years of soccer sweat.  The river was incredibly beautiful, and the laughter floating across the water was peaceful and heartwarming. 

There aren’t enough moments like that in my life…there probably aren’t enough moments like that in anyone’s life.  I take them when I can and completely savor every second.

Today, I enjoyed a hot stone massage, an experience so deeply rooted in relaxation and emotional release that experiencing it is the only way to appreciate the bliss I feel right now :))).  The masseuse took one look at me when the session ended and told me to lay on the table until I could actually sit up and walk—I’m pretty sure I looked a little drunk on life.

Amidst all these wonderful experiences, I also had a moment that caused personal introspection.  After one of the soccer games, our team manager asked parents to help take down and pack the sunshade our girls use during games.  I always respond to those kinds of requests, but I happened to be talking with someone, so I asked my son to go.  He argued a little, and I jokingly said, “You go.  I always go—I’m a helper.”

The woman I was talking to immediately replied, “YES, you are.”

I felt the strangest sensation…part surprise, part guilt, part embarrassment, because her tone conveyed criticism, and I’ve never considered helping a bad thing.  Before I could stop myself, I responded self-depreciatively, “Yes, I guess it’s one of my flaws.”

“It definitely can be,” she agreed, “if you don’t know when to say no.”

Ironically, this woman has relied heavily on me for help getting her daughter to and from soccer events for the past eight years.  She has five children, so her schedule is far more hectic than mine.  It’s never bothered me--her daughter is M’s closest friend, and I’ve truly enjoyed having her around.

After thinking about this for the past two days, I’ve decided that I’m OK with my helpfulness—I’d rather know that people can count on me than otherwise.

I want to be the parent who helps put away chairs after a concert or who cleans trash from the soccer fields after a tournament, because I want my children to know that responsibility is part of life.

I find it sad and ironic that helping is viewed by many as a weakness or flaw…because most of us rely on others, in one way or another, on a regular basis.  That’s what strengthens families, cements friendships and creates communities.

Helping, helps the world go round…although, I’m pretty sure there’s a song that says the Candy Man does the same thing.  I can spare a few minutes on Wednesday, if you need a hand.

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