Asking for Help: Don’t Go to the Hardware Store for Milk

Asking for help is hard to do. So, when you do it, be sure you are asking help of a person who is actually capable of giving you what you need.

In 1994 my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident that left him in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury and me at home living with the emotional aftereffects of the accident. I needed lots of help.

Early on I made the mistake of trying to share my distraught feelings with two men who were very willing to help me move a canoe. Both of them stiffened slightly and looked like they’d like to beam themselves to anywhere but where they were. Seeing their reaction I moved on to safer topics, acknowledging that I had inadvertently gone to the hardware store for milk. There was no way I’d get what I needed there! Men are often uncomfortable with emotional conversations. They were clearly out of their element.

After that important lesson, I separated the friends who were offering help into categories. Some were very willing to give us food, but would not have been comfortable being a shoulder to cry on. Others could run errands and mow the lawn, but would not have been comfortable providing meals. And, a precious few were capable of listening to me when I needed to talk about how scared I was feeling about Bob’s condition and how our lives could change as a result of the accident.

When I ask for help and don’t get what I need, one of the first questions I ask myself is, “Did I go to the hardware store for milk?” Over time I’ve become more and more experienced at determining who can meet my needs at any given time.

Have you been to the hardware store for milk and been baffled when all you could find is nails? Some people are just not capable of giving us what we need even though they care about us. Avoid hurt feelings and disappointment by learning who really is capable of helping you and in what way they can help.

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