A few weeks ago I wrote this Blog Post around the theme of Today You, Tomorrow Me, a ‘pay it forward’ sentiment summed up in the attitude of someone doing a favour for someone on the ground of ‘Today you need help, tomorrow it could be me needing help’.
Well, me being me started thinking about this from the other perspective, that of ‘Today it’s me needing help, tomorrow it might be you’.
I appreciate that that sounds rather selfish; it’s the sort of thing that you might say when trying to emotionally blackmail someone in to doing you a favour – “Hey, give me a hand, you never know when you might need a hand yourself!” Also, to be honest, it does sound a bit like a cross between a threat and a bribe!
But at the same time there is an honesty about it, and a forthrightness that we’re often reluctant to acknowledge. Sometimes, we DO need help and find it hard to ask for it. Perhaps asking for it on a ‘tit for tat’ is not something you can do with a total stranger, but perhaps it’s the way we need to be with friends and family, rather than the “I need help, I hope folks offer it because I’ll feel terrible asking for it, and they might turn me down.”
In the last decade there have been times when I’ve been desperate enough to seek help from friends. A couple have helped me out (you know who you are, folks) and several haven’t (you also know who you are) and it has affected our relationship in various ways – strengthening it in some cases, weakening it in others, changing the power dynamic.
But what about total strangers? It’s one thing for someone offering you help when you need it, but would that same stranger have responded positively had YOU asked first? I’m not sure.
Asking for help from the stranger would at least take out the guesswork, but it also comes over as if you’re begging or pan-handling – which at one level I suppose I would be. The argument of ‘you never know when you might need a hand yourself’ only really applies if you’re likely to cross path with the person again often enough to be around when they need you, OR if the stranger has a belief in some sort of Karma or ‘reward for good deeds’.
I guess it MIGHT work if the stranger is particularly kind, or has a religious belief that encourages selfless helping. It might also help if the person was on the verge of offering assistance and needed a little push to get them over nervousness or shyness. It might also work if the stranger gets a kick out of helping folks, or if they feel that they can get something form you quite quickly if they help you out.
This is an experiment that I’m not sure I’d have the guts to try; I think that in many cases, rather than ask a total stranger for assistance I’d try and get things sorted myself or just ‘grin and bear’ the problem.
Maybe it’s a British thing….