So for years Josh and I have preached the value of community. When people moved into our apartments, we made a big deal of telling them that we see this as being a part of a community. We take care of the apartments as we would our own home (for better or worse), and we expect our tenants to treat the place as if they owned it as well. And that goes for all the extra stuff too--if you need to borrow some sugar or our vacuum, please ask. If Josh isn't home and I need help opening a jar of spaghetti sauce, I will knock on your door. We trust you and we want you to trust us. We are now in community together.
But while we often made that speech, it's not very often that we find ourselves on the "asking" side of that equation (or the giving side either, now that I think about it). Not because we don't have need, but because we are quick to find another way to work around the situation. Of course, when I try to think of examples, I can't. But it is not very often that we ask someone else to help do something, borrow something, or fix something. And it's kind of sad. The less you participate in these helping situations, the less likely people will ask you to help them either. It's a perpetual circle of stubborn self-sufficiency.
But today I found myself in a tricky situation. I needed to take Josh's car into the shop, which is only 3 blocks away, but I had Rye. I figured I would move the car seat from my car to Josh's, pack the stroller in Josh's car, drop the car off at the car shop, then either put Rye in the stroller and push him home while carrying the car seat, or try to get the car seat in the stroller and hold Rye's hand as we walked home. It would be tricky, but I could handle it.
But then I couldn't get the car seat out of my car. Normally I can't get it in the car tight enough, but apparently my last installation had been quite successful. I thought about Rye riding in the backseat with a normal seat belt--it's just 3 blocks, after all (and I'm sure our parents' generation would have done that so let's take a deep breath here) --but he's so tiny, and why would he ever agree to ride in his car seat again if he thinks it's OK to ride in the back seat with just a seat belt? I considered leaving him in his room with the door locked with his new favorite toy, a recycling truck (which he got for getting 14 stickers on his potty chart last week!). After all, I could get there and back in less time than a typical shower. But I'd feel pretty guilty about that too.
I stood there, outside my car, looking at that car seat and wondered what to do. And that's when I thought about how nice it would be if there was someone close by who could watch Rye, just while I ran out and dropped off the car. And then I remembered: duh, you do have a neighbor who has offered to watch Rye for exactly these kinds of situations. And she has a son Rye's age, and they get along (as much as two 2 1/2-year-olds who are learning to share can), and she lives within eyesight of our dining room. As much as it felt like an imposition, I texted her at 8:20 a.m. asking if I could bring Rye over at 9, and threw in an offer to pick us both up smoothies to boot.
And then I waited for that awkward rejection to come back. But it didn't! About 10 minutes later, she got back to me and said that would be fine and she'd love to see us. And what a relief it was to accept her offer. To save me a bunch of time and steps. To have our kids play together. To sit and catch up over pina colada smoothies. That was so much more fun than pushing a car seat in a stroller 3 blocks uphill while trying to keep a toddler from walking in the street. Alone.
I think we're too afraid to be imposing on others when what we really would be doing in many of these situations is building connections. Investing time in each other's lives. Admitting that we can't handle it all, and allowing others to help.
What a relief it can be to just ask.