Is it hard for you to ask for help? Me too. I have struggled with it for years. Asking for help puts one in a vulnerable position. For me, it always came down to being told later on how someone helped me. As if the person was keeping score, which “sometimes” they were. Over the years, in an effort to protect myself, I became self-reliant and closed off, which left me feeling alone and scared. You tell yourself it’s better to just do everything yourself and in time, you become resentful and sad.
In 2012, I started having heart to heart conversations with a friend who lives in Media, PA. I was telling her just how upset I was at the thought that whenever I need someone, I feel like I have no one. I am a strong single woman with an autoimmune disease that leaves me unable to function at times. I work, but there are times where I feel that my energy is limited for little else. This is not always the case, but the more I push, the more I pay. My condition will flare and the next thing you know, I can’t make it to the drug store to pick up my medication, or to the supermarket. There have been too many times where a hot dog will have to do for dinner.
This friend recommended that I join the Media Time Bank. She explained to me how it worked. That you ask for something and a person receives time dollars. You can also receive time dollars by helping someone. Right away I became concerned. I said, “But wait, I don’t have a lot of time to offer.” She explained, “It’s not about that. Other people do have time and I’d bet the very things you need help with people could do.” The whole thing made no sense to me and then there was the issue of actually asking someone to help me. Could I do that? No.
In 2013, I joined. That’s it.
In 2014, I asked for a ride to the airport and received it. Nothing for almost 2 years after that.
But, in 2015, the same friend who got me to join also asked me to go to a Christmas art show that was near the police station – TTM’s Green Sunday. There, I met a bright and vibrant woman named Mary Van Horn. You can’t help but be drawn in by Mary. She tells you about herself in five minutes. No pretenses, totally refreshing. I am a jewelry designer and she happens to make scarves, jewelry, and all kinds of fun and funky things. She asked me to be friends on Facebook and a few weeks later she saw that I had a cold/flu and couldn’t get out of the house to get groceries. I posted asking if anyone knew of a grocery delivery service and Mary was like, “Girl, what do you need?”
Mary showed up with my prescriptions from CVS, food and a big grin. We talked, laughed and she listened regarding my fear of my upcoming thyroidectomy surgery. I had only a few weeks to prepare and I had been so sick with a cold for what seemed like forever. Plus, I had gone through a horribly traumatic surgery in 2015 that left me unable to work for 6 months. I was anxious, scared and feeling powerless with another surgery on the horizon. I needed help and was going to postpone the surgery, which I did. She had compassion, understood my situation having gone through a seriously rough surgery herself and she immediately jumped into action.
She asked me right away, what will you need? I knew I would need meals, someone to possibly give me a ride home from the hospital and possibly someone to help with getting me my medications, or a trip to the grocery store. I had heard that a thyroidectomy wasn’t a serious surgery in the sense that I wouldn’t be laid up for months like my previous surgery, but I knew with my other conditions, it would not be a walk in the park like it would be for someone without the other things I had going on.
Mary posted an ad in the TTM “Swap” group and within an hour, someone offered to make me meals. I sat back in awe and watched this whole thing take place. She posted the very thing I could never do. I had allergies to gluten, soy, tomato and milk. No one wants to cook for someone with that going on. I was wrong. Two people came forward. I was shocked. She then posted that I may need a ride to a doctor in Quakertown and someone came forth. Quakertown! I live in Swarthmore.
I finally posted an ad for a ride home from the hospital and someone reached out. The ride was from someone who is not a Time Bank member.
Within a week after the post, a few days before my surgery, a woman dropped off a weeks worth of meals. There were meals for providing proper nutrition prior to the surgery and there was lots of soup for after the surgery if I had problems swallowing. This woman was in touch with me constantly while she was cooking away, making sure that whatever spices she used were not bothersome. Can she use this spice, do I like spicy food, what about Thai food? It was mind blowing. WHAT? She loved to cook and she loved the challenge.
These meals didn’t just provide me with delicious nutrition, which I so desperately needed, these meals provided me with much more. When the first week’s meals arrived, I took a picture of them in my freezer and cried. No one had ever done anything like that for me. Each meal had labels on them. They were delicious and my heart and mind eased up. I suddenly had this feeling that I would be okay. That life was good and that I could trust.
I knew I had a ride to the hospital the day of the surgery from a friend. I knew Mary was going to come and hang out with me after I woke up from surgery. I knew that someone would pick me up the next day after one night in Riddle Hospital. I had a feeling of peace before the surgery. I had a feeling that I was going to be okay. Sometimes that’s all it takes. All it takes is knowing that someone cares. That people care. Knowing that people want to help you. That it can even come from strangers who just may become friends. It teaches that there are good people out there who want to help and have something to offer. It allows you to know that you are not alone. Someone may be able to help you. And that it’s okay to ask for help, that’s what the Time Bank Community provides.
I am recovering now. I am on the mend, but taking it slowly. I have my autoimmune condition to tend with, so it’s too soon to say. I have now become friends with my personal Time Bank chef and have made other friends, too. My personal chef checks on me almost and I enjoy talking to her. She is not just good with a slice of ham, she is a nice person who likes helping others.
I still have some work to do on asking for help, but I am trying. It’s about time. Asking for help and receiving it is giving me hope. Don’t we all need a little hope in humanity?
Thank you, Media Time Bank. Thank you.