In my neighborhood there is a long, steep hill I avoid walking up. I strategically plan my walks so that I go down this hill. It’s long and steep. A few weeks ago I was walking for clarity, hoping that one foot in front of the other would ease an ache in my heart, and on my way down the hill I passed a young mother who was pushing two small children in a stroller. They were going up. Barely.
She wore a Boston marathon qualifier shirt, so I knew she was no lightweight, but she was several steps behind the stroller, leveraging her body, her arms fully outstretched. She was nearly parallel to the ground as she inched her way up the hill. I made a joke about how I try to avoid walking myself up the hill, and here she was, pushing two kids. Amazing! She smiled and panted, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”
I offered to help. There was room for two of us on that stroller handle. I even half-turned up the hill, sure she’d take me up on it.
Although she was clearly struggling, she declined.
I was disappointed. She needed me, and helping her would have helped me, too. We could have shared the burdens of motherhood and humanity for just a few minutes, and then we would have gone our separate ways, both a little better off.
But she declined. It only took me about two steps to start judging her. There she was, clearly in need of some help. And there I was, ready and willing to help. An offering of needed hands was right there, and she rejected it. She said no. Aren’t some people funny? I thought.
And then. A friend of mine came walking up the hill. A friend I don’t know well, but whom I already love and trust. Her kind face lit up. “Amy! How are you?” and in a split-second I considered my choices. I could tell her honestly about the sadness I was feeling, and my ready tears could spill over for a moment. I knew she’d care, and I knew I’d feel better if I let her care about me.
“I’m fine,” I lied. “How are you?” She was fine, too, and we both kept walking.
You’ve seen Dr. Brené Brown’s wonderful TED talk on vulnerability, right? If you haven’t watched it lately, it’s worth revisiting. I’ve been thinking a lot about how being vulnerable can be scary, but it’s the path to authenticity. And then this experience on my walk put this theory to the test. I know I missed out on something by not sharing honestly. Have you found that it takes courage to share your reality? Does it make you stronger or happier? How do you go about helping others or receiving help when you need it?