As I unboxed the pieces of a new shelving unit, I went down a mental checklist, making sure I had what it took to complete the weekend project.
Did I have all the tools I needed to assemble it? One screwdriver — check.
Instructions at the ready — check.
Were all the pieces accounted for? Five shelves, two sides, top and bottom pieces, dozens of screws — check. (Never mind there were some odd-looking ones that I'd never encountered before.)
An estimated 30 minutes to put the unit together? No problem.
Two people to put it together? Uh-oh.
I surveyed the dozens — or had it turned into hundreds? — of pieces of hardware laid out before me. Usually, I have no problem tackling puzzles on my own, but this time I realized I would have to swallow my pride and find a second pair of hands to aid mine.
I'm a strong, independent woman who knows the difference between a Phillips-head screwdriver and a flat-head screwdriver. I can change light bulbs, air filters and even a tire, if need be. But there comes a point where one's sanity — and fingernails — are not worth sacrificing just to wrestle some unwieldy pieces of wood together.
At that point, I turned to social media and put out a call for help, even offering to buy lunch for anyone who was willing to take the time to assist me in putting the thing together. (I am a strong and independent woman, but I know my limits. I'm a lousy cook.)
It only took a few minutes for my friend, Lois, to respond. We set up a time and she arrived promptly on my doorstep.
After several seconds of looking over the instructions, she started locking pieces into place and explaining to me what the funny-looking screws were — cam screws and locks.
The entire unit required about 20 minutes to complete between the two of us, and I thanked Lois for her help. She refused my offer of repayment.
"No problem," she replied. "Thanks for letting me help a sister out."
What a strange sentiment, I thought, trying to recall when I'd heard it before. Oh, that's right — it just a few months ago when another friend, Berta, brought me homemade soup out of the blue. When I expressed my gratitude, her words were much the same — something to the effect of a sincere "thank you for letting me help you."
Once was odd; twice was the beginning of a pattern. Here were two women who selflessly gave of their time and talents to make my life a little more pleasant and they were not only willing to do so, it gave them satisfaction as well.
Have we become so stubbornly independent and self-sufficient in our society that to graciously receive, much less ask for help is a rarity? Are we so desperate for approval and admiration from others that we post only the best parts of ourselves on social media, speak only of our successes in conversation and downplay or outright hide anything in our lives that hints of imperfection? It should not be that way.
To truly connect and have community with others, we must be willing to be vulnerable and open, willing to drop our masks and trust. We may even at times need to ask for help. No, strike that. There's no "maybe" about it.
If your "friends" have never seen you in an imperfect moment and think there is nothing you need from them, then they are not friends — they are acquaintances. I'm not saying we should bare the deepest, darkest corners of our souls to everyone indiscriminately. But neither should we gloss over our hurts, struggles and difficulties.
There are many out there who want to be a friend; let's drop our masks and allow them to do so.