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Every Mess Is Not Yours To Clean Up - Grasshopper

At the market yesterday, I saw a package of flour tortilla shells on the floor. Apparently someone dropped them. My normal inclination would be to pick them up - but not this time.

I got a message from out of the blue that said, "Every mess is not yours to clean up." I knew it had more to it than tortilla tidy aisles.

 

How often do you step in when you should butt out?

 

For me, it has been more often than not and it's not been especially productive, especially when my offer is not welcome.

 

Just because you can help doesn't mean you have to. I remember my hypnosis teacher Dr. Dave Dobson offering this precaution: "Are they paying you?"

 

That was his way of saying that your unsolicited advice was better kept to yourself. It's been a hard lesson to learn. In many cases, I can see someone's problem often before they know it's a problem. For me to point it out and offer my "expert" advice has often been intrusive and not well received.

 

There's also another side to cleaning up a mess that's not yours. You handicap the person you're "helping" in gaining the skills necessary to solve their own problems. "Oh, mom will do it" is a refrain we're all familiar with. Reminds me of a story . . .

 

My high school summer job was working as a construction laborer. My dad was my boss. One day I had loaded up a wheelbarrow to the brim with all sorts of trash to take to the dumpster: broken cinder blocks, pieces of brick, cement bags, coffee cups, cigarette butts and all sorts of other debris that gathers during construction.

 

There were planks that acted as a ramp to the dumpster. I started going up this ramp with my heavy load and couldn't get past halfway up the ramp. I came back down and tried again with the same result. A much older laborer (one who was about my age now) came up behind me on the ramp and said, "Boy, get out the way" and proceeded to pick up the wheelbarrow in mid stream and wheeled it the rest of the way to the dumpster. I was thankful and impressed.

 

I told my father the story on the ride home and he said to me, "What would you have done if he wasn't there?" In his not so subtle way, my dad was schooling me in one of the most obvious lessons in life: When push comes to shove, it's your problem to solve.

 

That doesn't mean we don't ask for help, but know that the helper's job is to assist you, not do the job for you.

 

I've come to realize that you have to give people the space to solve their own problems and when offering help, know that it's more helpful to them to assist rather than doing all the work for them.

 

I don't know if struggle builds character, but I'm pretty sure it spawns creativity to find a way to clean up our own mess.

 

All the best,

John



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