Just before Christmas, a group of us went to see a play in a nearby town. Half the cast were friends of ours, so I was thrilled to get a ticket.
The auditorium was on the second floor of the building, up a flight of stairs. After riding in the car for nearly an hour and then sitting in a draft during dinner, I was pretty sore. But I joined the crowd and climbed the stairs, thinking that I would sit out the intermission and all would be well.
My bladder had other ideas and come the intermission, I needed to make the trek downstairs to pee. On the way back up, one of the ushers, a friendly and eager young man, called to me.
“We have an elevator! Right here! I can run you down in it after the show!”
“I might take you up on that,” I puffed, fully intending to rest up in the second half and take the stairs because I like to be independent and don’t like making people do anything extra for me.
After the final song and the standing ovation, we started making our way to the exit. Out in the hall, I could see my young usher friend standing at the elevator door, scanning the crowd, looking for me.
He really wanted to run that elevator for me. And it was only partly because I think he really enjoyed running the elevator. He was just one of those lovely people you meet who wants to help.
It would have been selfish of me to take the stairs. He would have been disappointed.
So I smiled. “Is that for me?” I asked.
“Yes, it is!” he said, opening the door with a flourish.
We had a little chat on our way down and he held the door open for me when we got there, making sure I was OK and had help getting out of the theatre.
One of the things I’ve learned while living with inflammatory arthritis is how eager most people are to help. They open doors, jump up to let me sit down, go miles out of their way to give me a ride.
It’s hard, sometimes, to accept these offers of help. I want to be independent, not an inconvenience to anyone. I like to be the one being of service, dammit.
But I’ve come to realize that always serving and never allowing others to serve me is a form of selfishness.
We can’t all be of service all the time. Some of us have to be on the receiving end. Otherwise, life turns into one of those conferences where the keynote speaker tells the audience to turn to the person on your left and introduce yourself and everyone’s faced with the back of someone else.
You don’t have to wait until you’re noticeably crippled with arthritis to live this lesson, thankfully. A smile and a thank you to the person who offers to hold the door for you will make them happy.
Instead of an undignified battle of the wallets when your friend offers to pay for lunch, you can try a cheerful “Thank you! My treat next time!” This allows your friend to do a good deed and gives you both another lunch to look forward to.
When we offer up our help, we want the person we’re helping to have an easier time because of us. Making their day better makes ours better. Sometimes, the best way we can be of service is to gracefully and gratefully allow someone to be of service to us.
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