Over the past couple of weeks, I've learned something about myself: I don't know how to gracefully accept generosity from others. Help, gifts, compliments -- when they are offered to me, they make me very uncomfortable. This caught me off guard because I am one who very much enjoys giving these things to others, so you'd think I'd enjoy being on the receiving end as well. Nope.
Since Reid's birth, many generous friends have offered to make my family meals, and unless they flat-out say, "I'm coming over with dinner tomorrow," I struggle to find a gracious way to accept their gift of love. I think in my mind, accepting help from others makes me feel like I am taking advantage of people or coming across as a big ol' mooch. And it shouldn't be that way. I should not feel uncomfortable saying, "Thank you! We'd loved a meal on ____ day." But I do. When people ask me if they can do something for me or if we need them to bring us dinner, I seem to find a way to talk them out of it. And it dawned on me the other day what an insult it is to those sweet people to not accept their offer to help.
I love being on the giving end. When friends have babies or surgeries or big life events, I really enjoy cooking a meal for them or picking out a gift. It is a pleasure for me, and if someone said to me, "Oh please don't do anything for me, I have plenty already," I'm pretty sure my feelings would be quite hurt. No one likes to be rejected.
Last week, one of the sweetest women I know asked if I needed a dinner, and I told her no and gave an excuse that I had a ton of meals stockpiled in my freezer. She was completely gracious about my rejection, but after I had time to process things, I wanted to kick myself. It wasn't about the food. It wasn't about her giving me anything. It was about her asking to show love towards me, and I pretty much told her I didn't want it. And to be real here, I really did want it; I just didn't know how to accept it. And in true Erica form, it wasn't until I was driving home that I came up with the response I wish I could have given her: "I'd be crazy not to accept a meal from you. I've heard how great of a cook you are. We would very much appreciate it, thank you." Nothing mooch-y about that at all.
That incident was fresh on my mind on Monday as I attempted to take the boys to the grocery store all by myself for the first time. I was terrified, and I guess the fear showed on my face because as I was walking into the store with my toddler and newborn in tow, an older lady approached me and asked me if I was OK. I brushed her off with an , "Oh I'm fine, thank you." and tried to walk past her. But she continued to talk to me, asking about Reid and how I was doing and then focusing her attention on Cohen. I was uncomfortable. I'm not one to talk to people I don't know, and here this woman was being so nice to me, but all I wanted to do was slink away. We finally got away, and I began my shopping. And just when Cohen started to become a handful and I began to get panicky, that women from the parking lot appeared. She gave Cohen the attention he wanted and me a moment to regain my confidence, and then she was gone. We continued shopping, and when I started to become flustered again, the woman appeared out of nowhere again. She never really said anything to me, she focused all her attention on Cohen -- giving me a few seconds to breathe. This happened 3 more times during our shopping trip. Every time I felt I was losing control, that woman appeared to distract Cohen for a moment, and then she'd leave again.
Halfway through my shopping, I realized that she was not doing any shopping herself. I had met her in the parking lot as she was leaving the store and I was going in. She had already done her shopping. She just recognized that I was an anxious mama who needed help, and she gave it to me in the moments I needed it most. She made my first grocery trip with two children a success. She helped me gain confidence. And if I had refused her kindness? I would have missed out. I would have surely become overwhelmed by an energetic toddler and a crying newborn in the middle of the dairy department. Accepting her kindness was the greatest gift I could have given myself.
So this week? I'm forcing myself to say "No thank you" less and "Yes please" more. Because accepting help from others can be a blessing for all.