Once upon a time, there was a not-so-young military spouse who had a bunch of babies right in a row. For a few years (well, maybe more than a few) things were pretty crazy. A successful day consisted of feeding everyone and not letting anyone leave the house naked. If anything else was accomplished, it was nearly a miracle. During this time, the spouse accepted a lot of help from a lot of people: carpooling, child sitting, picking up groceries, even occasional help with laundry and cleaning, plus on one famous occasion, installation of a dishwasher that she intended to install herself. She called friends to come in the middle of the night while she went to the hospital. She asked people to watch her kids just so she could have an hour alone. Family, friends, neighbors and often near strangers were pressed in service on a regular basis. All the while, this spouse felt guilty. She was always accepting help from other people. Always. She hated it, but it was the only way to survive.
Surely by now you know that this person was me. Thankfully, I had friends and family to help when things were rough. I'm even more thankful, however, for the wisdom of one particular friend. (I would love to shout out her name but that would probably be inappropriate.) Often, as she listened to me vent, I would lamenting that I was always asking people to help me. She was consistant in her reply: "Your time to give will come. For now, take the help that you need." I tried to believe her statement and accept help graciously, and I certainly thought about it nearly every day. It was hard to imagine that a time would come that I would be able to help someone else.
Lo and behold, some years later, I have found that my time has come. My kids are bigger, I am a stronger person, and I can give to other people. I can offer to shuttle another person's child from point A to point B. I can offer to pick up things at the grocery store. I can offer to watch a child (or a few.) I can drive people to pick up or drop off a car at the shop. It fills my heart with happiness when I can do these things for other people, knowing that it is payback for all those years of taking. I have also learned to ask for help when I need it, and accept that help without (much) guilt.
To all the people who have helped me over the years, thank you. To my friend who taught me such an important lesson, thank you. And to all of you, I hope that my friend's wisdom might help you in some small way. Regardless of your stage in life, giving and receiving are all part of the cycle. Do what you can, when you can, and take help along the way. It is a lovely way to go through life.