My mom raised some pretty independent kids. We have all had success in our various professions and we’ve all had our share of challenges and heart breaks. We know how to be kind, caring, supportive, and hard-working. One of the things that I didn’t necessarily learn as part of this independence was how to ask for and accept help.
When I was living in Vermont and working at the college I went to as an undergraduate, I had a great group of friends. We were each living a distance from our families of origin and found as a result, that we looked to each other to find the support we needed through tough times. Shoveling out from a couple of feet of snow, taking each other to doctors’ appointments, pick-up’s at the airport, or helping when a car broke down–we did these things for each other.
One very cold day in the winter the little Chevy Spectrum I drove, with over 100,000 miles on it, began to billow clouds of gray smoke from underneath the hood. I may even have seen just a touch of orange flame out the driver’s side in front of me. I was driving down main street and pulled into the only service station for several miles. It is where I always had my oil changed and any other maintenance work done. Don and his wife Velma ran the two-door garage repair shop and everyone in town took their cars there, including the majority of students at the college–they never lacked for business.
The bad news, Don told me, was a cracked engine block. Given the age and miles on the car I was told it would be cheaper to buy a new car. The good news, I could “store” my car for free in their lot until someone interested would buy it and take in away (which I did in return for baking them a milky way cake). I knew nothing about how to sell a car that was in very good condition, if not for needing a new engine. I knew even less about buying a car. But my real problem was the fact that I only made about $20,000 a year and was paying for student loans, rent and living expenses. I had no money to put down on a car.
So, back to those friends of mine. I sat in Chip Steven’s office in tears, having no idea what I was going to do and definitely not there to ask for help. Even though I was living within walking distance to work, and could certainly catch rides to and from places locally, I really didn’t want to be without a car. Chip asked if it would help if he loaned me the down payment and I could pay him back as I was able. This of course fueled (no pun intended) a bit more crying and a huge sense of relief. It also showed me that I can ask for and accept help, without consequence or judgment.
I don’t remember how much of loan it was, but I do remember paying it back. Chip’s willingness to help me out was such a blessing. As soon as I picked up the new car I brought it over to show him. I drove that car for another 100,000 miles. Thank you, Chip! I’ll never forget it and will do my best to continue to pay it forward.