Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 10, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 10, 2004 – During my life I’ve had various relationships with men, but “My Living With An Actor Phase” stands out as one of the memorable ones. Wally and I rented a downtown house on Homewood Avenue, long before the area had any illusions of being trendy or the home of Toronto’s Gay Village.
We lived in an old Victorian row house, with CBC types on one side and a rooming house full of cross-dressing, glue-sniffing, down on their luck, unemployed by choice not necessity, people on the other. We’d agreed when we moved in together that we’d share the responsibilities of running a house hold, and that meant grocery shopping and housework.
For some reason I always cleaned the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom and Wally looked afer the bathroom on the main floor, and the living room, dining room and kitchen. We worked well as a team and inevitably did our household chores on Friday night or Saturday morning, so we could enjoy our time together on the week-end.
One evening I came downstairs after finishing my “upstairs maid” cleaning jobs and Wally was sitting at the kitchen table with a beer in one hand and a feather duster in the other. He still had an open bottle of Mr. Clean on the kitchen counter and he looked at me sheepishly and said, “I hate helping”. For some reason that struck me as hysterically funny. It still make me laugh, because he was exactly the opposite when it came to pulling his weight around the house. He may not have liked it but he did his share.
I was thinking about that today and it reminded me how wonderful it is to hear someone say “Let me help you”, especially when we’re behind schedule, feeling over-whelmed, tired or out of our element. I was at Business Depot today picking up some office supplies. I was clearly over-burdened with bags of paper, a lamp, binders and file folders. A second trip out to my car was going to be a necessity, when the woman who had been in the lineup behind me said, “Here pass me those two bags. I’m leaving now and I’ll carry those out to your car for you”. She had a lovely soft, Scottish accent. Her car was parked in the opposite direction all the way across the parking lot from mine, but she carried the bags to my car and then said a cheery, “Goodbye”.
As I drove home I thought about all the times when people have helped me during my life. My parents were unfailing in their support. Over the years, friends and colleagues have helped me move, organize garage sales, write resumes and business letters, garden, plan and execute dinner parties, move furniture from one house to another, rehearse business presentations, recover from broken hearts, clean house, shop for clothes and home accessories, repair things around my home and look afer my pets.
To extend a hand to another and to offer to help that person with something in their life is a gift of enormous significance. “Helping” is sometimes taken for granted, always expected and frequently not fully appreciated. On occasion people even forget to thank other people for their help. Of all the “no-no’s” in human interaction this is a big one.
When one person helps another they are not just giving their assistance, they are giving their time. When we hire a person to perform a service for us we pay them. Not so with a friend who helps us with something – they do it to be kind. There is no payback other than the personal satisfaction they get from offering a helping hand to someone they care about.
Think for a moment about the last time you asked a friend for help. You undoubtedly had an expectation that your request for assistance would be granted. Now think again about the last time you offered to help someone. Not because you were asked, but because you could clearly see they needed your support. There is a big difference.
I remember one time years ago when I was vacationing in France. I was hopelessly lost on the outskirts of a little village. I stopped along a country road at a Vin De Pays (a table where the locals sell their own wine). An elderly gentleman was just closing up for the afternoon. I couldn’t follow his directions, so he said, “Follow me”.
He drove up and down hills and around corners and through little wooded areas and across a bridge. I frantically tried to keep up with him. Sometimes I’d lose sight of his car but as soon as I rounded a curve there he would be – waiting. Finally he stopped his car, pointed and said “Ici, Mademoiselle”. There was my country inn. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and was gone. I would never have found it on my own.
I’ve never forgotten that , and just thinking of it now, I’m reminded of how easy it is to offer to help another. The world would be a better place if we all engaged in helping each other more often. Not with any expectation of a being repaid, but just to be kind. Try it – it can be habit forming, and you’ll be amazed at how it comes back to you in your life, sometimes when you’re not expecting it at all.