I had an entire post planned for this week, fully written and ready to roll, and then something happened on Monday that made me shift gears entirely.
So instead, tonight I want to tell you two stories.
When I was in college, we had a massive snowstorm that shut down my campus for more than a week. You may remember it: the Blizzard of 2010, more colloquially dubbed “Snowmageddon.” Classes were cancelled, the ten minute walk to the dining hall turned into a forty minute arctic trek because the drifts were so deep, and my roommates and I built a snowman so large that it took until nearly May to melt.
Unfortunately, I had to be home the weekend after the storm for something incredibly important, which couldn’t be cancelled or postponed. Ironically, I can’t even remember what it was. What I do remember is that I didn’t have a shovel.
As the week dwindled on and the plows eventually made their way through the student parking lot, clearing the roads but burying my car even deeper, it became apparent that I was going to need to acquire a shovel, stat.
The intelligent thing to do would have been to text my friends, put out a call on Facebook, or go door-to-door in our dorm and see if anyone had a spare shovel they could’ve loaned me. Even more easily, I could have emailed campus maintenance to ask if they could help me out. But I have always – quite irrationally – hated asking for help, and I didn’t want to bother my classmates or inconvenience our overwhelmed grounds crew.
Instead, in what has to be the most “college” move of all-time – I tried to dig out my car with a beer pitcher. A FREAKING BEER PITCHER. To compound the hilarity of this idiotic maneuver, I don’t even drink beer, and never have.
The point of this first story isn’t that College Jenny was a moron, though I suppose there’s some merit to that; rather, it’s to illustrate just how deeply I loathe asking for help and the insane lengths I’ll go to in order to avoid doing it.
Fast forward eight years, and I still hate asking for help. I despise the idea of putting anyone out, and I constantly feel like I owe people for even the smallest of favors. My best friend jokes that it took her more than a decade to convince me to not have a panic attack if she occasionally picks up the check and tells me to “just get the next one.” I’m great at collaborating in a professional setting and know when to ask for help on the job, and I’m even better at asking for help on behalf of other people (I’m a professional fundraiser!) but when it comes to something I personally need – hard pass.
Nonetheless, just this past Monday, after a series of escalating issues with my car, and several months of repeat trips to the shop to try and address the problems, I sucked it up and asked for advice from people on Facebook. Less than five minutes later, more than half-a-dozen people had messaged or texted, not only with incredibly helpful suggestions, but with confirmed appointments and loaner vehicles if needed. Their responsiveness blew my mind!
The more I thought about how readily people offered their assistance, the more warm-and-fuzzy I felt. This reaction seemed a far cry from my shovel-free Snowmageddon strategy, and while I’d like to claim that it’s because I’ve matured since college, the truth is more significant than either rationale.
Asking for help restored my faith in humanity.
The Internet – and more specifically, social media – which are often such ugly places, can also be incredibly powerful tools for good. A very frustrating situation with my car turned into the highlight of my day, because people were willing to help me resolve it. Instead of being dejected, I felt hopeful. Instead of being angry, I was joyful. Instead of complaining, I am writing this post to tell you to take heart!
I don’t know about you, but I like to help people. I don’t always have the knowledge or capacity to help, but I like making a difference as often as I can, even if it’s small, and even if it’s on behalf of a stranger on the Internet. I often “get” just as much as I “give,” and I think that many of us feel the same way.
To be clear – I’m not suggesting that when you encounter a problem, your first reaction should always be to ask for help. Self-reliance, resourcefulness, and creative problem-solving are important skills to hone.
But when you run into a snowdrift, ask for a damn shovel.
Study after study has proven that asking for help actually makes people like you more. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s usually more cost-effective and efficient. And as I mentioned above, people often even enjoy helping. But none of these are the biggest reason why you should do it.
Ask for help, because it will prove to you, over and over and over again, that there are remarkably good people in this world.
They are rarely the people who wind up trending on Twitter or on the 6pm news, but I promise you – they exist, and they are everywhere.
So the next time you’re dealing with your personal Snowmageddon, put down the beer pitcher and let people pitch in.