I get a lot of email and comments from people who try to lump me in with some of the more radically conservative pundits out there. I am accused constantly of teaching young people to ignore a helping hand if offered in favor of struggling and failing on one’s own. I reply to all of those emails, but I rarely feature them on Finance For Youth because I think they are just stupid. The people who make these comments are not regular readers, and so don’t listen to what I teach. They take my opposition to unions as opposition to the “working guy”, and refuse to even glance at everything else I have said over the years. Just for those people, let me clarify. I have no problem with taking help when you genuinely need it. That is what help is for. My problem is when help is abused or not appreciated. As far as I’m concerned, people in need can get whatever help they need. All they need to do is ask.
Think of how many times you have heard that all you need to do is ask and you will receive the help you need. Usually, you hear this right after you have suffered through doing whatever it ws the hard way, and are now so burned out and tired that you don’t even care that the person offering the help wasn’t there when you needed them. But there it is, all you need to do is ask.
A few days ago, I went with my parents to help them buy a new TV. Apparently, as you get older, your eyes get worse, and you need a bigger TV to see. I went to a store, armed with research on which TV was the best for their needs. There were several choices out there that were all about equal. My parents settled on one, and decided they also needed a table or stand for their new set. The stand was another $200 or so dollars (not a big deal considering the rest of their purchase). I asked if there was something they could do to knock off some of the price of the table because we were buying an expensive TV. Right off the top, they offered to knock off 10%. Then they told us that there was a $200 fee for assembling the table. We asked to talk to a manager, and explained the situation. He worked something out so that he knocked off some from the TV and some from the table so that we paid less than we originally would have for the whole shebang. All we had to do was ask.
Earlier this year, I got my degree and my credential to teach social science. Because I completed my degree and credential through distance education, there wasn’t a lot of support as to what to do next. I applied for jobs, but didn’t know whether or not I needed to take additional coursework in order to teach English language learners. I also didn’t know whether or not I was considered to be “highly qualified” according to No Child Left Behind. I probably screwed myself out of getting several jobs because of this lack of knowledge. I finally started talking to the local office of education (where I’ve been working for the past six months!) and found out that yes, I am able to teach language learners, no I didn’t need to take any additional classes, and furthermore, I am considered to be highly qualifiedfor the purposes of NCLB. Funny thing, all I had to do was ask.
I can come up with 100 or more stories just like those where asking for help would make the difference between success and failure. I have a friend who just had a kid with his girlfriend. She doesn’t work right now, so she is on state assistance. This is exactly what these programs are for. I don’t begrudge her for collecting temporarily until such time as she can finish school and get a job. I know a lot of people who would struggle through and make it somehow without asking. But the point is they don’t have to. For some things, especially on a temporary basis, getting the help needed to survive or to thrive is a simple matter of asking for it.
So when you find yourself in a spot where things seem hopeless, don’t be too proud to ask for help. You’ll be surprised at how many people are ready, willing, and able to help you. On the other hand, when someone asks you for help, and you are in a position where you can help them, consider doing so. It doesn’t have to be about money: Sometimes it can be advice, a meal, or even a shoulder for them to cry on. Think of how good you feel knowing that someone is there to help you, and all you need to do is ask.