By Robin Abrahams
The headline is an obscure "Frasier" joke ...
There's a lovely family in our neighborhood that is about to go through a fairly stressful time. Not a tragedy, just a lot of tsuris--a perfect storm of stressors all descending at once. Mr. Improbable and I like this family a lot, so the last time we ran into them down at the dog park, I gave them our card and told them, with great sincerity, to call on us if they needed errands done, food brought in, relatives, children, or animals cared for, rides, or what have you. I pointed out that we work mostly at home and have a lot of control over our schedules, which is a luxury this family doesn't have right now.
And I felt sort of good about that gesture, and more than sort of unhappy because I know that's all it was. A gesture. Not because we didn't mean it, but because there's no way the couple would call us. Ever. I just can't imagine one of them turning to the other of an evening and saying, "Hey, you know, we're out of food and exhausted and the Abrahams said to call if we needed anything. Get their number, I'm going to ask them to make a supermarket run for us."
We offer help and feel good and virtuous and proud. We ask for help and feel useless and weak and needy. You might ask a relative, or a close friend--but the couple down the block whose dog plays with yours in the morning? Probably not.
This is a pity. We can't have the joy of helping unless people are willing to be helped. I'm a bit of a loner by nature, and an independent person, but I think the US has gone way, way too far in its individualism. Individuals--even families--cannot be entirely self-sufficient units. We need each other. It's wrong for a society to make people feel ashamed for needing help.
I hope our neighbors call.
And the next time I'm having a tough time, and someone says, "Let me know if there's anything I can do," you know what? I'm going to think if there is something they can do, and if there is, I'm going to ask them to do it.
Yes I am.