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Have We Forgotten How to Ask for Help?

A woman wearing glasses sits at a desk biting a pencil while looking at a laptop screen, with colored pencils in a holder on the table.

With the recent uptick in gig workers and the service economy, it seems like everything these days has become monetized. Car rides, meal deliveries, and errand running have all become things we can pay for: many of us no longer have to pick up a family member from the airport, cook a meal for a friend, or drop off medicine for a neighbor because those tasks can all be outsourced.

There is certainly economic privilege in being able to afford these services, but in addition to the cash outlay, what is the greater price being paid here?  

It seems that the convenience of being able to click an app and get anything we need has come with the cost of isolation and disconnection. We have forgotten how to ask for what we need, or even what we want, at the risk of seeming needy or demanding. This has led to many of us losing touch with the needs and wants in our day to day lives, and not receiving the many small connection points that are possible on a daily basis when all we have fueling us are silent rideshare trips and invisible package deliveries.  

In addition to losing touch with our inner desires, this lack of asking for help also means that as a society we are losing out on the privilege of being helpful to others. Having purpose in life is what grounds us: when we are able to babysit a friend’s children we feel needed and important. In fact, Stanford social psychologist Xuan Zhao notes that “people often feel happier after conducting acts of kindness.” 

To anyone reading this, I challenge you to think about one thing in the coming month that you can risk asking for, whether it’s telling someone that you would like their help during your move, making it clear that you would prefer a ride home from the airport, or directly asking a friend to celebrate a special occasion with you. Taking this vulnerable step just may deepen your relationships. I also challenge you to think about one way you can offer help to someone in your life: perhaps it’s making a meal for a sick friend, grabbing a cup of coffee and delivering it to a co-worker, or mowing a neighbor’s lawn.  While the outlay of time and energy may be challenging in the moment, not only may you be easing someone’s burden,  you are almost guaranteed to feel fulfilled afterwards. This is a gift all around. 

By Jean Taylor

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