When We Help Other People, We’re Helping Ourselves

A short and sweet story about how Heather's decision to say "Yes" to an act of kindness was a gift to herself as well as to the strangers who helped her.

My husband, two daughters (aged 10 and 7), and I had been car camping for two weeks. Just us in our tent (and an occasional hotel room) playing 2 Truths and a Lie, making s’mores and breathing in nature. We ended the trip in Acadia National Park. When we looked up at the sky, there were only the stars shining their lights on us.

It was lovely. We put a lot of miles on our trusty car, Natasha. She was amazing.

And then, day one of being back in a city that we knew, we came too close to a sharp new curb and BOOM! Blew the tire. One inch gash straight through.

It was the Sunday before Labor Day. The tire store was only open for another 50 minutes, and it was a 15 minute drive. AAA said they might take over an hour to get to us. We had a spare and, in theory, we could figure out how to change it. But time was ticking quickly.

One of our first thoughts was, well, no one was hurt and we aren’t in the middle of Acadia National Park anymore! As we were counting ourselves lucky, I heard, “Can we help you?”

I looked over to see three twenty-year-olds finishing up their ice creams, smiling at us.

I said, “What?”

One of them again said, “Can we help? We just had to do this yesterday to our car. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

My inclination was to say thanks, but no. Why should I put someone else out when I should be able to do this on my own? How could I imposition them like this? Then again, is it actually so embarrassing to say yes to someone helping me?

I smiled and said, “Yes. Thank you. That would be amazing.”

They quickly grabbed the jack and made sure they knew how to use it. The car was up, tire off, new tire on in less than 10 minutes. We asked if we could offer them some money or some of our yet to be eaten cotton candy as a thank you. The declined both offers.

Instead, one of them replied, “You know, it really makes me feel good to do this.”

They gave us a gift, and in turn, we were giving them a gift. I’m thankful that if our tire had to go, it happened there. I’m thankful I could say yes when I wanted to say no. I’m thankful that people not only have their eyes open to opportunities to help others but also recognize a simple truth: when we help others, we’re helping ourselves. I’m just thankful.

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Heather Campbell

Heather Campbell is the CEO of Ready Set Recover, which helps people get ready for and recover from surgery. She lives in the Greenwich Village with her husband, daughters and dog and is thankful for her wonderful community.

5 Responses

  1. When we’re kind to people we know it strengthens our connections with them and provides a source of support. Research shows that we may benefit from giving support more than those receiving it – and we’re also more likely get support in return when we need it. This may not be like-for-like support, or even from the same person, but being kind to others builds a wider support network which increases well-being all round.

    • I agree that that giving support can feel better than receiving it! And, as someone who’s historically insisted on giving to everyone, I’ve had to realize that allowing myself to receive… is a kind of giving too.

  2. Devorah Fox says:

    I don’t ask for or accept help because then I feel obligated. But you’re right, Heather. Some people just like to help and “thanks” is thanks enough.

  3. Needing this reminder on kindness today! Glad to share this story with others and hoping it inspires us to both give and receive each other’s attention and help.

  4. This is so simple, yet so profound, Heather. Isn’t it interesting how we hesitate to accept kindness (often under the pretense that it would be selfish) when it is a gift to the giver as much as the receiver? What a beautiful truth.

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