The Kindness of Strangers

Why are we so reluctant to accept help when it is offered?

I was talking to a friend last night who is the mom of a medically complex child. She mentioned a very expensive piece of equipment that she’s going to need soon, and how she wasn’t sure how she and her husband were going to pay for it. After listening to her, I offered to use my social media platform to raise money for the equipment.

I could see the discomfort, the reluctance on her face. It was clear by the shine in her eyes that she wanted to say yes, but obligation, or guilt, or maybe both, made her hesitate.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this look on a friend’s face before. I have done fundraisers for friends in several occasions, all who had very legitimate reasons for receiving charity. One was a young family whose toddler had passed away and there were mountains of medical bills left behind. Another was a friend whose husband lost his job while they had four small children and her very sick parents in their care. But although these friends were prime candidates for receiving support, it took a lot of convincing to get them to accept it.

Why We Reject the Help

I think that women in particular are likely to say no to help because we have been socialized not to. We put up a wall between us and those who offer help because we feel that we should be able to handle things on our own, and that asking for help would make us appear weak or dependent on others. This is especially true for women because society has taught us from a young age that we should be independent and strong—able to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders without having to ask for assistance from anyone else. This pressure can lead us to reject help even when it is needed and offered out of love and acceptance.

Saying Yes, Instead

When I was in high school, I played the role of Blanche in Streetcar Named Desire. One of her lines has always stuck in my memory: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. We could all stand to take a page out of Blanche’s book. Accepting help when it’s offered can bring many benefits into our lives. It can open doors to new relationships, foster trust with existing ones, provide necessary relief in times of need, and allow us to feel connected with others even during difficult times. Saying yes shouldn’t make us feel guilty or selfish. We should instead feel grateful for the kindness of friends and strangers, and accept it with open arms.

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