There was a time when my way of helping others was a bit off (sometimes it still is). I was always ready to support, take a meal, lend a hand or an ear–be there to fill a need. All they had to do was ask.

Then one night, life as I knew it was thrown out the window. And I learned pretty quickly there are two types of helpers in the world. Both are very well meaning, but one more helpful. One type was just like me, standing on the sidelines ready to jump in at a moments notice. Ready with words of support and frequent, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” statements.

The other type are the ones that don’t ask. These are the type that I’m constantly striving to be like. Instead of waiting to be told they just do. When I look back at my saddest days I remember two people with the fondest memories. The first was my sister, who decided to stay at my house for the time she was in town. She didn’t ask if I wanted her there, she didn’t tell me to let her know if I wanted a guest in my empty-feeling home. She just came and helped with cleaning and dinner and the kids. The other person was a neighbor I hardly knew, but who showed up on my doorstep one day with a basket full of random items. From toothpaste to cheerios, she had stuffed in everything she could think of that I might need, but might not feel like shopping for.

And this type of non-asking help can apply to more situations than just big life changes or deep bouts of depression. My husband is one of the most patient people, and he’s always happy to do anything I ask, but sometimes asking feels like nagging so I end up doing it all myself. Making someone ask you for help puts the extra burden on them. And for someone who already feels too sad, too overwhelmed by errands, too worried they aren’t being the mom their brain is telling them they should be, asking for help can just seem like another task on their plate.

Offering unsolicited help makes you the vulnerable one–what if they don’t want your help or you’ve helped in the wrong way? So yes, this type of helping is harder to do (which is why I’m still working on it). You have to get to know her better so you know when she needs help. You have to be more aware of situations; and it takes time to think about how you can best help. But trust me, as someone who has been on both sides, unasked for help is never unappreciated.

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