Nobody panic: the title of today’s post is not actually a request. It’s a script, and one I would do well to memorize. One I think a lot of us would do well to memorize. Here’s why.
About a week ago, a dear friend of ours returned from a four-month trip around the world. She’d originally planned to be gone for a year, but the fun ran out and she came home a little early. Exactly zero people were sad to see her back so soon, and everybody fell all over themselves in an attempt to make her re-entry as easy as possible: people drove her to pick up her car, people brought her coats and crocheted her a beautiful scarf because it’s cold right now, people took her out to dinner. People literally debated who would get to have her come stay with them for that first few days. It was adorable and lovely, and made my heart smile.
But then the First Week Re-Entry Period wore off, and she started looking for longer-term options. I mean, you can couch-surf for a little while, but sooner or later you want a bedroom with a door. So she came over, sat down, and said “I’m given to understand that you have a guest bedroom. Do you think I could live here for a while?”
We said yes (because duh), and now we have a housemate. Hiya, roomie!
Now, here’s the reason I’m telling you that story: I’ve realized, as I’ve thought about it, that if I had been the person needing a place to stay, my dialogue would have been ZOMG so insanely long. I would have said something like “Hi! I brought you these cookies. I hear you have a guest bedroom, and I am currently looking for a long-term place to stay, and I know it’s probably terribly inconvenient and I will absolutely understand if you’ve got other plans for that room–like family coming to town or occasionally using it for overnight guests or storage or something–and that’s really totally ok, and I won’t be offended at all if you say no, but do you think I could maybe possibly sleep here just for an incredibly short amount of time while I frantically try to find anyplace at all to live? I promise I will cook and clean and grovel and shovel the driveway with a teaspoon and give you footrubs and make exactly zero noise and I am willing to give you every single dollar I ever encounter in exchange for rent while I live here, and OMG please no don’t feel like you have to feed me because I will live off melted snow and whatever acorns I can steal from the neighborhood squirrels”.
Because that’s how I roll, yo. That’s how I’ve always rolled. The idea of coming right out and asking for something I need–especially if there is any chance whatsoever that it will inconvenience someone else–makes my head explode. I get into a guilt spiral like you cannot believe, and I tend to avoid these sorts of conversations at all cost.
My friend, on the other hand, had a need, identified the need, and came right out and asked for help.
Mind = blown.
Which is why we’re talking about this today. How many times have you needed something from someone, and approached the request in that slinking, tail-between-the-legs, hat-in-hand, sheepish, oblique way? How many times have you started the conversation with “I’m so, so sorry to ask for this”? How many times have you built an “out” into the request–things like “I understand if you can’t, and that’s totally fine, because I know you probably have plans on that day, but if you happen to be free…”?
But hang onto your socks, kids, ’cause I’m about to drop a cosmic bomb on your head: What if you started thinking of requesting help less as this Big Horrible Thing That Will Inconvenience Everyone You Love, and started thinking of it as a gift to the person you’re asking?
What if you took a second to revise your role in your own head, and decided that you were no longer the tragic supplicant but were instead the Bringer of Opportunity–in this case, the opportunity for someone you love to build up a little extra karma, or repay you for a kindness you’ve already done for them?
What if you chose not to slink into the room, but to stride in, knowing that you were offering the chance to be an agent through which the Universe could work its magic?
Sure, asking for help can seem really scary and overwhelming–what if the person says “No”? What if it really is a huge inconvenience? What if it turns out that nobody actually loves you enough to show up when you need them the most? These are all legitimate, valid fears, and it’s totally ok to take two or three or a hundred bracing breaths before you make the request. It’s also totally ok to have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan OMG in case the request-ee really isn’t able to provide the help you need.
But it’s also ok to make that leap of faith and trust that the Universe has put the safety net in place. It’s ok to approach this as your way of letting your friend pay you back for that time you helped him haul 40 boxes of books into his new third-floor walkup apartment. It’s ok to think of this as an opportunity for the request-ee to build some preemptive karma, so that when they need a new kidney, they know who to call first.
It’s ok to need other people, and it’s ok to let them help you out. It’s ok to be the Universe in ecstatic motion, and trust that the Universe knows who needs to build some karma and who needs a chance to learn some things about themselves and who needs a chance to grow, and it’s ok to be the person who provides those opportunities.
It’s ok to call in a favor.
At the risk of showing the depth and breadth of my geekitude, it’s ok to help us help you help us all.
And you can do it with four simple words: “Please help. Thank you”. That’s it–no apologies, no excuses, no circuitous language. The world won’t end. The friendship won’t be utterly destroyed.
You can do it.
I have faith in you.
Help prove me right on this one. Please. And thank you.