‘I was doing her laundry FOR her. She was watching me fold her thong underwear. She just stood there holding the baby! This is ridiculous.’: Mom urges others to remember helping means doing so with ‘no strings attached’

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“I was sitting at a coffee shop the other day and overheard (I was eavesdropping) two women behind me. One was complaining about her daughter-in-law who’d just given birth to her grandchild, telling her friend, ‘I was doing her laundry FOR her. She was watching me fold her thong underwear and didn’t even say anything. She just stood there holding the baby! I offered to help but this is ridiculous.’

Here’s the thing. If we offer to help someone, that should come with no strings attached. Helping means we pitch in and do whatever is needed. There are no conditions. Maybe her daughter-in-law was about to lose her marbles because she was up all night. Maybe she was so thankful someone was there to do her laundry, she had no words. Maybe she wasn’t thinking anything at all. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about you.

That’s the part about helping someone in general. Whatever we’re doing — bringing dinner, listening while they vent, folding their undies — when we offer to help, we’re bearing some of the load for them at that moment. We’re stepping in and doing the mundane things they would be doing if they weren’t so overwhelmed or sad or angry or hurt. It’s not a glamorous act that needs a bunch of pomp and circumstance — it shouldn’t need a ‘thank you,’ even though the friends that show up for us when we need it most are the ones we’re most thankful for. Just show up, and don’t expect anything in return.

If we really want to help someone, we shouldn’t say things like, ‘Let me know if you need anything,’ or ‘Call me if you need me,’ because people in need rarely ask for help. It’s not to say it’s an empty gesture — in fact, these phrases are the most common thing to say to someone, especially if we’re not sure exactly how to pitch in. But I’ve learned if we really want to help, we just show up. We ring their doorbell and start unloading their dishwasher or play with their kid while they take a shower. We shove a lasagna in the oven so they don’t have to think about dinner. If they live far away, we call and tell them we booked them a massage, because we’re worried about them. We know when a friend needs help, so help in whatever way we are able.

I’m lucky enough to have friends in my life who do just that. We hop on a plane to help a friend who says they can’t get out of bed because they’re so depressed (I know that’s a privilege) or send a card when someone’s had a baby and needs a good laugh and a dose of ‘this too shall pass.’ We show up within an hour of learning one of us lost a parent armed with wine, cheese, and pajamas because we’ll stay as long as we are needed. We do whatever we can to make sure the other person knows they aren’t alone.

And to the lady complaining about her daughter-in-law? Props to her for managing to throw on a pair of thongs right after she had a baby. She sounds pretty badass, no wonder your son married her.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julie Scagell. You can follow her journey on Facebook at Julie Scagell, Writer. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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