Making “The Ask”

Do you like to ask for help? Do you do it as often as you should? Do you accept assistance from others willingly or as a last resort?

I ask for assistance daily, and have for as long as I can remember, because of my progressive neuromuscular disease. This doesn’t mean I enjoy doing it. It also doesn’t mean I do it as often as I should. I am stubborn, and if there is a way I can do something on my own, I will. Even if it takes longer and wastes precious energy I could better spend on another task.

It can be difficult to admit we are dependent, but the truth is none of us can survive without assistance from others. Everyone relies on other people to get through life. However, knowing we all rely on outside assistance to varying degrees doesn’t make it any easier to ask for help when we need it.

As is often the case for many seniors or people with disabilities, my decision to let others help me with my daily tasks was made when I fell. I lay on my bathroom floor on November 15, 2007, at 1:14 AM, waiting for the paramedics, sobbing not due to my injuries but because I knew an era of my life was coming to an end. I recognized that moving forward, I would have no choice but to allow others to assist me with daily living.

Can you pinpoint the exact time and date you realized it was time to ask for help with something? Do you know the precise instant you decided to stop worrying about making the ask and allowed yourself to expose your vulnerability?

A year ago, I received an invitation to speak at a conference in Tasmania, Australia. I jumped at the opportunity without thinking it through completely. Once the euphoria settled, I realized the only way I would be able to afford to bring a personal assistant with me was to ask those in my circle of support to help me financially. For months, I agonized and worried about how to make this request, what method of communication would be best, the message to convey.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and created a crowdfunding page. I spent a few hours writing my message and then sent it out to the world. Within four weeks, I had achieved my goal. The messages of support from family, friends and complete strangers were overwhelming, causing me to cry with gratitude almost daily. People had been waiting for me to ask and were glad I finally let them help.

It never occurred to me that others could anticipate and see my needs before I was ready to ask. Instead, I put myself through months of fits of anxiety and useless worry. I could have saved myself so much wasted energy if I had just had faith that when I asked, those around me would answer my request.

Last weekend, I received a message from my friend Crystal. Crystal has been a generous mentor to me on my writing journey, offering encouragement and support on days I have had questions and doubt. I grow and learn by reading her work on a regular basis. As can happen, she is feeling overwhelmed by life events. Crystal bravely reached out to her circle of support to explain her situation and make her requests, hoping we would help alleviate her stress. We all responded positively and by the end of the weekend, most of her requests were met. As friends, we can’t take away all of her concerns, but knowing we can help with some is gratifying to those who care about her (at least, it is to me).

Crystal wrote about her thoughts on “the ask” in a lovely post you should go read. She ends the post by describing the joy which can be found in giving, summing it up with this apt thought:

When we can’t fix what’s wrong, but we can help to ease a burden, it brings a particular joy which can neither be measured nor duplicated. It’s one of the mysteries for which logic is useless.

I hope we have all felt that joy. I know it is one of the reasons I find it rewarding to help others when I am able. I strive to express my gratitude and joy to others when they respond positively to my requests for assistance.

Asking for help is difficult because it requires us to expose our vulnerabilities. But in asking for help, we allow those who care about us the opportunity to experience the joy of giving. Why would we deny those who care about us the gift of that joy which can be found in selfless giving?

Maybe we can remember that joy the next time we find ourselves anxious to make the ask. Yes, asking can be scary, but allowing others the gift of giving brings blessings to both parties involved. Thank you Crystal for giving me the opportunity to create and feel the joy this week.Rainbow

Has anxiety prevented you from making an ask? How have you felt when you have helped fulfill someone else’s ask?  

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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My One Word

At the start of the year, I read many blog posts from writers who had chosen a word for the year as part of the “My One Word Challenge.” The premise is simple. Instead of setting resolutions (which you probably will just ignore), pick a word to give you focus for the year ahead. Every post I’ve read about the challenge has been written by a Christian, but I don’t think you have to be Christian or even believe in God to participate in this challenge. I think selecting a word and having it serve as a basis for your actions could be beneficial for anyone who seeks to make positive change in his or her life.

I have never thought about identifying with just one word. Thankfully, the website has some ideas about how to select a word. The website also has entries from challenge participants so you can read why they chose their words.

I made a list of four things I hope to accomplish in 2015. Then I thought about the traits I need to develop or improve to help me reach those goals. I reflected on last year, and knew right away my word for 2014 (had I selected one) would have been “fearless.” Still no word for this year.

Friends posted their words in our writing group. I read their words, hoping for inspiration, but nothing jumped out at me. Last week someone described me as “tenacious” and I thought I might be able to make it my word. Then I felt I was cheating by selecting a word which already described me. After all, the whole point is to try to focus on movement this year so why pick a word representing a trait I exhibit?

Saturday morning, while cooking with one of my Personal Assistants, it hit me. I knew what I did NOT want to be in 2015. I did not want to be judgmental. Or rather, I want to try to be less judgmental than I often am. Knowing this, I went to the dictionary and thesaurus to do some searching. After nearly an hour reading definitions, I came to a decision. My word for 2015 will be:

Charitable

Merriam-Webster defines charitable as “merciful or kind in judging others.” Or, as I once heard in a phenomenal training conducted by an ex-hippie named Manny, “always assume good intent.”

How does this impact my daily life? I think it is:

  • Resisting the urge to roll my eyes whenever someone calls me inspirational, brave, strong, etc., and accepting what was most likely meant as a compliment with gratitude and humility instead of ire and annoyance.
  • Teaching my Personal Assistants how to complete household or cooking tasks without questioning why an adult does not know how perform what I consider basic tasks.
  • Recognizing my life experiences are not the same as others, and remembering the blessings I have had are not universal to those I encounter.
  • Encouraging understanding and knowledge when I encounter fear and prejudice.

This is not an inclusive list, by any means. And my focus on being charitable does not mean I will stop being discriminate, or particular. There are aspects of my life which require me to be fastidious and picky.

However, I will do my best to keep Manny’s advice forefront in my thoughts and actions. I will try to ask questions to gain more thorough knowledge before rushing to an opinion. I will open myself to views other than my own in the hope of developing a deeper understanding. I will show kindness and empathy rather than harshness and criticism.

Because I am human, I will fail at times. When I do, I will pause and remind myself how I feel when others are quick to judge me. I will learn from my mistakes and endeavor to do better. I hope you will feel free to ask about my progress, and hold me accountable if you catch me falling short.

What about you? Did you select a word for 2015? Share your word in the comments below!

What does “Giving Tuesday” mean to you?

If you are anywhere near the Internet today, be it blogs or social media, or other mainstream media outlets, you know it’s “Giving Tuesday.” What is Giving Tuesday? According to the website (because of course there is a website), the day is “a global day of giving.” They go on to say:

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.

People are posting “UNselfie” photos, spreading the word about giving, and the organizations they support. In just three years, this campaign has brought in more than 10,000 worldwide partners, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Facebook, Huffington Post and UN Foundation. Is this the new tradition of generosity?

I work for a nonprofit organization and understand the importance of development for organizational sustainability. Since 1997 I have served on many nonprofit boards, often in leadership roles. I love the idea of being generous, of giving back to your community. But seeing all of the posts about Giving Tuesday makes me wonder if people are doing it because they believe in philanthropy and generosity, or if they are doing it because they want to show others they are participating. I would like to believe the former. Does the reason really matter if the end result is a well-deserving organization getting help?

I am not wealthy. I dream of how many nonprofits I could support if I earned more income. However, I believe everyone has the power to make a difference regardless of bank account. So, my $10 or $20 memorial contributions every few months to The College of St. Rose Monsignor Delaney Alumni Scholarship Fund may not be at the level of what some would consider substantial gifts, but they are important to me because I attended college on a scholarship. I volunteer my time because I have limited financial resources. I may not be able to sustain my local Ronald McDonald House with a monetary donation, but I can go make dinner a few times each year with my Rotary Club.

I don’t mention some of my acts of charity because I think they are worthy of acclaim or recognition. I provide them as examples of simple acts you can do if, like me, you find yourself in a situation where personal finances do not permit you to be as financially generous as you would like. I am not seeking recognition when I contribute or volunteer. As the beneficiary of much generosity over the years, I believe it is important to give back when I can, by whatever means I am able. We can all make a difference, and personally I think we should make that difference as often as possible throughout the year, not just on a particular day.

But maybe our desire for recognition, even fleeting social media glances, makes this idea a winner. The Giving Tuesday campaign was designed with social media and Internet connectivity in mind. Snap a photo, encourage others to give, mention your own support – boom! Easy as pie. Everyone knows you did your part because it is all over the web. At work, our own online donation page has a button where you can link your donation to the Giving Tuesday tally.

To those of you who are participating in Giving Tuesday – thank you for making a difference in your community. At work, we recognize and appreciate each and every donation no matter the size or the time of year. I know the organizations you choose to support are as grateful. Just don’t forget about all of those causes and organizations come July when they are planning a summer picnic, or in September when they are organizing a craft fair. Your support may be even more important then, when the general public is not as apt to brag about their generosity.

Did you participate in Giving Tuesday? What causes or organizations are important to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!