From my earliest memories I always wanted to be of assistance to others. My dad sometimes tells stories of when they were building their house in my childhood hometown I was often fetching tools for my dad even as a two year old. I often went with my mom to feed some of the stray cats in our town and try to find homes for them even before I started school. When I was in high school I always made a point of being one of the cool upperclassmen who didn’t harass the freshmen or junior high kids. In college, I had stash of over the counter medical supplies that I sometimes gave to my dorm mates. I was the guy on our wing who always had toe nail clippers and anti itch cream. I also proofread a lot of research papers for classmates as I had a good eye for wording things better even as a teenager. When I moved out on my own I used to help people move as I owned an SUV for several years. I also took people to the grocery store whenever I needed supplies more often than not. I eventually had to start charging people as a few people were overusing the service.
Now that I am more home bound and have more aches and pains, I’m now the one asking for assistance more often. I now have a cleaning lady come in to scrub my place down once a week. One of my neighbors now helps me wash my laundry a few times a month as long as I pay her a small fee and provide the soap and laundry money. Her husband sometimes makes supper for me on the weekends. Last weekend it was meat loaf and made from scratch gravy and mashed potatoes. Perfect cold food weather that I, as a bachelor, don’t make for myself very often. I probably would have made more complex dishes than my grilled steaks, bratwursts, and barbecued chicken strips if I was cooking for a family or a girlfriend.
For the first several months of hitting the middle aged wall, I had a tough time accepting that I would be wise to ask for more assistance. I had always been the one giving my assistance to others, often with no expectation of any return. I don’t how much of this is my illness, being a man, or having the independent streak that I do. But it took some pride swallowing and soul searching in order to come to the realization that 1) I’m not as spry and healthy as I once was, 2) twenty years of schizophrenia took more of a toll on me than I wanted to admit, and 3) there is no shame in seeking outside aide.
For years I was the one aiding others. I guess now that my health isn’t as stable as it once was, asking for help more often will become normal. But then again, I will be 40 next June. And many of my friends the same age as I am are starting to experience the early stages of declining health. A friend of mine has arthritis in her hips. Another friend of mine now wears glasses and his hands aren’t as stable as they were even five years ago. A third friend of mine is fighting cancer. A cousin of mine died from cancer in her forties. My brother had to have eye surgery because his eyes were getting so bad. A cousin of mine had a surgery a while back that required him to do rehab for awhile. The wife of one of my cousins has had several surgeries already and she is my age. A friend of mine from high school has a wife who has some kind of blood disease, I think. All of these people are my age or only a few years older. None of us smoked or did drugs in our younger days. But things tend to fall apart in middle age.
While I feel guilty that I couldn’t manage both my schizophrenia and physical health perfectly ( I opted to focus more on mental health than physical health in my younger years), I am grateful I have family and friends who are willing to help me out now that I am no longer as physically strong as I once was. In short, being decent and helpful to people eventually pays off. It may get you taken advantage of once in awhile, especially in your younger and healthier years, but the world does seem to have a round about way of rewarding people for making efforts to be decent to others. It may take decades to get a return, but what comes around sometimes does come back to you. In short, it doesn’t pay to be a jerk to people during the early years. Some people do seem to get away with being jerks and hypocrites but eventually things can backfire on them. If nothing else, history is not kind to people like that. Whether it’s God, Karma, Justice, the Universe, etc., just because life starts unfair and unjust people get rewarded short term, they often get their due even if it’s only being remembered for being a jerk by future generations.