From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

A Little Help Please

When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.

EdgarWatson Howe

“I need help.”

Three little, bitty, monosyllabic words. In fact, my three-year-old can even say them. Well, almost. We are teaching him to say them.

You see, Sam starts whining because he is frustrated or because he’s not able to do something by himself, and I interrupt with, “No whining. Just say, ‘Hey, Mom, I need a little help, please.’ See, isn’t that better?”

I don’t understand why it’s so hard for him to say, “I need help.” Then it hits me: I haven’t been the best role model in this area. Help is good; it is what I do for others, and I’m certain I would have no problem being on the receiving end if I really needed it. I just never have. In fact, I didn’t see myself as needing help a couple of Thanksgivings past.

My widely spread family gets together only once a year, and it was my turn to host. Did I mention we’d ordered new floor coverings throughout our house, and the only date the carpet layers had available was the Friday before Thanksgiving? Oh yeah, and the kitchen renovation took a little longer than expected—we were hoping to get it usable and clean by Thanksgiving. And I almost forgot, my second baby was due in two weeks; baby number one was all of twenty-three months.

But I didn’t need help. I had it under control. I am the help-er not the help-ee.

At my MOPS leadership meeting sharing prayer requests, I happened to mention my family arriving and needing prayers for their smooth travel and . . .

“Is your family staying with you?” they asked.


“For how long?”

“They’re coming Tuesday and leaving Monday.”

“Are your renovations finished?”

“Well, almost. They should be finished by Friday.” I made some quick mental calculations. “I’ll have the weekend to cook and clean while Sam is napping.”

“I don’t think so.” They shook their heads emphatically.

“Excuse me?”

“Please, just listen, and we don’t want to hear anything but ‘thank you, that sounds great.’ We’re coming Monday to clean your house. And, oh,” they admonished, “please don’t clean before we come.”

Resisting the strong urge to argue, I acquiesced.

Friday came and the carpet was laid; the kitchen received its final finishing touches. I hoped to whittle away at the clutter and sawdust and debris, but I underestimated my energy level and the amount of work involved. Instead of cooking and cleaning while my toddler napped, I joined him. I began anticipating the help of my friends.

Monday rolled around. My cleaning angels sequestered me down the street. When I returned, I was greeted with a spic-and-span home—and food. Lots and lots of Thanksgiving food prepared for my out-of-towners.

Gulping back the emotion that washed over me, I offered a gracious and humble thank-you from the depths of my overwhelmed heart. When the last angel left, I put little Sam down for a nap, plopped onto the couch . . . and bawled in relief and gratitude.

“I need help.” I hadn’t said those three little bitty words, the words I was teaching Sam. Nor had I realized how true they were. Yet my friends looked past my superwoman façade, teaching me the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned about receiving help . . . and love.

Libby Hempen

“How long have you been multitasking?”

Cornered by Mike Baldwin. Reprinted by permission of Cartoon Stock Ltd.

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