I have a hard time asking for or accepting help. The reverse is true, too. When I feel like other people are imposing on or taking advantage of me (or someone I care about), I become inwardly, secretly critical.
Last weekend, our church went to the Flying H Ranch to serve. We painted part of a building and cut firewood, amid the beauty of a brown-and-gold canyon through which the Naches River runs. The Flying H has a wonderful campground. Several families from our church brought RVs. We set up our humble six-person tent, in which we stuff our seven-person family.
At lunchtime, the sandwiches I’d put in the cooler that morning looked rather limp. My older kids wandered away to their friends’ RV, which was spacious and cool and boasted a stove. Their friends’ mom offered them hotdogs. Limp sandwiches or hot dogs? Of course, hot dogs.
After our work was done for the day, my father-in-law had a great idea. Why not drive up the road and see the view of Mt. Rainier? We weren’t far. My husband asked our friends if our three big kids could stay behind and play.
I envisioned us driving up the road twenty minutes to see this view. I gave them a confident, “We won’t be long!” as I climbed in our minivan.
TWO HOURS LATER, when we finally straggled back to the campground, dinner was in full swing. Not only had we not helped prepare it, but our kids had already been fed. #momfail
The next morning, after a hot, lumpy night in the tent, I hauled a Ziploc of blueberry muffins from the cooler only to hear a chorus of “Is this all there is for breakfast?”
My ten-year-old daughter then announced she wanted an RV for Christmas.
One of our RV friends kindly offered to cook pancakes, which of course my children accepted. By this time my pride was mangled. There was no way I could compete with the RV group. I was helplessly accepting assistance right and left.
I kept thinking of how I would judge myself if I were in my friends’ shoes: “Why did she come on this trip if she wasn’t planning to take care of her own family?”
But nobody seemed judgmental. If anyone was critical, it was me of myself.
That’s when it hit me like a baseball to the eye: life is not a level playing field. Some of us have tents, some RVs. This is not competition, this is community.
We had our church service on Sunday at the campsite. My father-in-law – who had slept in his car overnight – summed it up nicely when he prayed, “Thank you for those who came on this trip well-prepared, who graciously shared with those of us who came with empty cups.”
Yep, I was the one with the empty cup. Next time I’ll remember what it’s like to be a tent-dweller, drop the critical attitude, and put on grace instead.
A.L. Sonnichsen enjoys writing YA novels and literary short stories when she's not feeding, clothing and nurturing her five children -- or taking off for the day to gaze at Mt. Rainier. She lives in a small town on the sunny side of Washington State and writes about life, books and avoiding housework on her blog, The Green Bathtub.
*A.L. is one of those women I just click with. I’m so grateful you brought it with this guest post, Amy. Thank you for being such a generous & cool guest!