However, the box was bigger than I expected, and unwieldy. I knew I couldn't carry it to the checkout, so I went and got a cart. Then I managed to lift the box and maneuver it sorta-kinda into the cart; then I made my way to the checkout with one hand on the cart handle and one hand steadying the box.
The cashier asked, "Do you need any help taking that out?"
"Oh, no, I'll be fine," I said.
I wheeled the cart out to the car, opened the trunk, put the back seats down flat, and moved my groceries (which I'd already bought before going to Canadian Tire) out of the way.
As I was doing this, I saw a guy sitting in a truck not far away. He was watching me, and I was pretty sure that he was wondering if I needed any help and was ready to offer it if I did.
But I didn't. I got the box out of the cart and into the car without much difficulty.
So ... let me recap. I wanted a patio chair. I found the perfect chair on sale. I thought I might not be able to get it out to the car or into the car myself, but I did. Richard really likes it.
As plots go, even I have to admit this story is boring.
But afterward I got thinking about why I didn't ask for help at any stage along the way. It was a really awkward box. Why didn't I go and look for someone to help me right away when I found the chair I wanted? Why didn't I accept the cashier's offer of assistance to get the box to the car? Why was I so determined not to look like an inept damsel-in-distress in front of what was probably a very nice man who would have been happy to help me out?
- Self-sufficiency: "I don't need anyone; I can do it."
- Pride: "Look at me! I did it all by myself."
- Determination: "I will get this box into the car if it's the last thing I do."
- Desire to avoid being a bother (a.k.a. false humility): "Other people might need help more than I do at this moment; I'll just struggle away on my own, don't worry about me."
I'm not exactly sure which motive was in play at that moment -- but the reality is that if the box had been five pounds heavier and six inches thicker, I would have asked for help without feeling any of those things. So really it was a judgment call, and I was fortunate enough to judge correctly: I thought I could probably do it without help, and it worked out fine this time. In other circumstances I might judge differently.
I guess the problem is when we assume we don't need help when it is painfully obvious to others around us that we do. Then failing to ask for help, or refusing it when it's offered, can be a really bad sign.
We used to sing this song at church called "The Servant Song," whose first verse goes like this:
Won't you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
What an interesting idea: that accepting help and service from others is an act of grace. I should remember that -- not necessarily the next time I purchase a piece of patio furniture, but the next time I find myself struggling with something, either a practical need or a personal issue. Instead of assuming I can handle it, maybe I should consider asking someone for help, thus showing grace to myself and to them.