Dada Fix: The Power of Help

July 28, 2017

Dearest Solomon,

Every day, your language and understanding of the world changes so much. Your mom and I find ourselves smiling and chuckling constantly as you parrot back something we’ve said, whether it makes sense or not. It really makes our day.

Not everything you say, however, is by accident. In fact, a lot of the time it is quite intentional, if not willful. The evolution of small understandings is what makes being a parent the most rewarding. It is these moments where the small, invisible building blocks you’ll need for life are put in place.

One of the most important building blocks is the power of help. Six months ago, maybe longer, you did not possess the words to ask for help. You see, help is a complicated thing and something most of us never master fully.

Your journey with help went something like this:

  1. Pointing in the general direction of something you wanted or needed
  2. Pointing specifically at something
  3. Pulling mom or dad by the hand towards what you wanted
  4. Pushing mom or dad towards what you wanted when we couldn’t be pulled
  5. Saying what you wanted
  6. Dada Fix — asking me to help you with something
  7. Papa Fix — fixing it yourself

You can’t fix much on your own yet, but more and more each day.

Help is hard for many different reasons. Let me tell you why.

First, we don’t always know we need help. We’re only as smart as what we know and sometimes we’ll find ourselves beating our heads against the wall because the only way we know how to solve a problem is with persistence. It’s ok to just say I need help out loud, someone will help you get there.

Second, we don’t always know how to say what kind of help we need. This is very related to the first point. It’s entirely possible that you know you’re stuck, but also can’t find the words to say it out loud. How do you describe something that you can’t understand to begin with? Figure it out.

Third, we’re embarrassed to ask for help. This is the biggest one I’ve found. No one wants to appear foolish, unprepared, or otherwise disadvantaged. It’s understandable, to a point, but not so far that it should keep you from moving forward. People are often more willing to help than we give them credit, we just have to get past whatever we believe it casts upon us.

Lastly, we often don’t have anyone to ask. Once again, this is related to the previous point. Seeking help from our friends, family, and loved ones can be both embarrassing and fruitless. I’ll warn you now that experience is not exclusive to any one person and its worth having faith that someone has been through what you are going through before. Of course, sometimes you’re venturing off and you really don’t have someone who can help directly. Figure it out.

There are 2 ways to help people, you should do both.

  • Action — sometimes when we need help it’s for something specific. Maybe you need a ride somewhere, or help with moving something, or opinions on something. In all of those cases and countless others, the help is specific and single-use.
  • Education — sometimes it seems like you need a specific action completed, but what you really need is to know how something is done, not just that it is done. Whenever possible, I’d rather help someone understand how to help themself rather than to just do it for them.

There’s no right or wrong way to provide help, per se, but you should choose carefully. You’ll know if you chose the wrong path if someone keeps coming back to you for more help with the same thing. If someone wants to know how to do something, but you know they can’t learn how to do it yet, help them do it first. If they come back for help with the same action, maybe you can teach them how to do it on their own. If you can’t teach them, maybe you can help them find someone who can teach them.

When I look back on my life, I can’t say that one kind of help has been more or less common. Maybe the actions have ruled, because they are simple and easy, usually. But honestly, I’ve prided myself on helping people become the better version of themselves, and to that end, I’ve tried to focus on making them more self-sufficient.

You see, help is a two-way street. It’s an ecosystem. It’s a religion. We shouldn’t help people because we need something nor because we expect something in return. We should help others because it is the right thing to do. We should help others because we’re nothing without everyone.

People often ask why I write you these letters in public and now you know why. As much as I can try and show you the way I have seen and what I see as best, it’s far more important to help as many people as possible — that’s how I can best help you, son.

Help someone today, so you’ll have help tomorrow.

Love always,