If I help you, do you feel obligated to help me? If you help me, should I feel obligated to help you?
What if we’re not trading services? What if we help each other because that’s what friends do?
Ah, but what if we’re not friends? Would you help me if I asked you? I would help you, cautiously, if I could see you needed it. If you were stranded at the side of the road and were waving people down, I would see how I could help. If you had fallen and were injured, I would definitely help. If you were hungry or cold or too hot or thirsty, I’d be there for you. If you needed shoes or a blanket, no problem. If you just needed a shoulder to cry on, of course. If you were starting your business and needed someone to believe in you, yes, but with the proviso that you weren’t in it because “squirrel” and you weren’t trying to profit on someone’s weakness or ignorance.
About this time in August of 2016, I went to Orlando for a John Maxwell Conference. I almost made it into the lobby. There was this revolving door and an exit that wasn’t an exit. I walked into the glass and stopped. The revolving door didn’t. It knocked me down and I broke my hip. Some guy I didn’t know but who might have been a guest at the convention center blocked the revolving door so people wouldn’t run into me. I never even got his name. The concierge as well as the security guy checked on me and called the ambulance. I didn’t get their names either. I cannot repay them for their kindness and willingness to help. I remember them fondly. When I see someone who needs help, I will more likely help just because I remember how grateful I was for the assistance I received.
If someone reminds me that they’ve helped me in the past, it’s because they showed a willingness to be as open-hearted and giving as I’m trying to be to those I’ve helped. It gives me a connection I can relate to. No one owes me help, and I don’t owe anyone either. I help because even though my Savior knew me and what a flawed person I am, and even though I never deserve help, he stepped in and helped me anyway. I should do that for those that need me here, so my obligation is not to the people I help but to my Savior.
I asked a friend of mine to help me in a business venture. I reminded him that I supported him in his venture simply because I knew him and was hoping for his success. He said he almost turned me down because he doesn’t trade help. What? He said all I had to do was ask and not bring up the fact that I had helped him before. I will not consider us “even” if he helps me. I will consider us closer, more comrades than acquaintances. I consider trading help with my friends as just something friends do. I will watch your cat. You will loan me sugar. We will chat over the fence. You will recommend a good restaurant. I will recommend a good movie. We help each other and don’t keep tabs.
Not trading help makes no sense to me. How would you respond to a request from me for help? Would I be obligated to you? Would I be a closer friend? Would you help me at all?