What would it take for you to commit to paper, voice aloud to another human being, or send an e-mail to another person asking for help, hoping he or she will respond? How do feel about admitting that you have a need: awkward, dependent, inadequate?
I have a friend, Aaron, who also has cerebral palsy. He has a customer service job which requires him to greet guests from behind a front desk, where he was asked to stand for the duration of his shifts. Herein lays the problem: I’m sure it’s tiring for anyone to stand for long periods of time, but it is especially taxing if you have CP. Your muscles stiffen from staying in one position too long and you quickly become fatigued. If someone brushes past you in your highly stiffened state, you might fall over. You spend mental energy looking for something to hang on to in order to maintain balance which takes away from your ability to be present with others. In order to give your full attention, and be in the safest environment possible, you must be seated.
After conveying this situation to his supervisor, Aaron was accommodated and given a seat. When I asked Aaron how that exchange felt, he said, “It was awkward. I found myself in a place where I had to speak aloud about my needs. But, I learned you have to care about yourself before you can tell somebody else what you need.”
Maybe admitting you have needs is healthy.
I found myself in a similar situation last winter. As the evening grew later and later, I began to wonder if the plow was going to arrive in order to clear my driveway in time for work the next morning, or if I needed to shovel it myself. This concerned me. If ice lay under the snow, I could fall and hurt myself. My back would inevitably be sore the next morning from lifting and tossing snow. Since I live alone, there would be no one to help me—this would be very time consuming!
Reluctantly, I grabbed my cell phone, and called my neighbor. Not wanting to really admit that I had a need, I asked, “Do you think the plow is going to come in time?” After a slight pause, my neighbor read into my question and responded, “Jenny, do you need help shoveling your driveway?” With a sigh of relief, I answered yes! Armed with shovels, my neighbors arrived at my doorstep. Another neighbor saw us working and came across the street to help. In a matter of minutes my driveway was clear. Reflecting on that incident, I learned a valuable lesson:
“I cannot assume people will understand my needs unless I have the courage, vulnerability, and humility to communicate them. If I would have hidden my need for my driveway to be cleared from my neighbors, not only would I have been gone with an unmet need, but they would have been robbed of the blessing of helping another person. I learned that night that a symbiotic relationship exists between admitting you have a need and letting another person fulfill that need: you both come away blessed!
What need do you have this holiday season: someone to pick the kids up from daycare, money for Christmas presents, your car fixed? What would it take for you to pick up the phone, send an e-mail, or knock on a door? If someone comes to you with a need, how will you respond? Will you be open and aware to the needs of others, excited to receive the invitation to help? Let’s be out loud about our needs this Christmas and engaged in the process of meeting them.