Help is a wonderful thing, especially help from friends.
Asking for help is easier for some people than others and does not always come naturally. I had to learn how to ask for help, it was a hard lesson and one that I am glad I learnt.
It has certainly made my life easier to be able to ask for help and to be able to graciously receive it – the two do not always go hand in hand!
Now I also need to know when to say no to help.
We have been getting offers of help in building our house. We have also been advised by people that have already been down a similar road that it is not always helpful to have help – perhaps I had better explain that one!
There are times when you are building with help that you may spend more time teaching the helpers/volunteers than you actually spend working.
It is important when you are working on a project that is new to you that you take the time to learn how to do it properly yourself before you can safely or easily instruct someone else in what to do. Perhaps you are working by instinct or feeling your way, which is fine when you are working by yourself but not easy when someone is watching over your shoulder to see what you are doing!
It may be that it is easier to do a particular job yourself rather than train a volunteer, especially if that volunteer is not there all the time or may even be a different person each week!
Sometimes you may have someone there to help and you don’t have any jobs for them so you can feel under pressure to find something interesting for them to do. You can feel that they have come all this way to help you and the least you can do is create some work for them. This may result in you not concentrating on the task at hand or worse – rushing a job which needs careful consideration.
You also need to match the job to the person, this takes time. If you know the person well it is much easier because you may have a feeling for what would suit them, what they are capable of making decisions about without always asking or checking that what they are doing is ok.
People have different natural skill sets, things that they have a natural flair for and are comfortable and confident doing and it is important to try and match these skills to the job.
We can easily underestimate the simple things that one can do to be helpful. We had a friend visiting with us last week who really wanted to help and also to learn what she could about we are doing so that when she finds some land and the time comes for her to build her own place she will have a sense of confidence about the possibilities.
She did very simple things for us. Each morning she washed up all the dishes and pots from the previous night’s dinner. This might seem like a small thing but it was so much appreciated. It meant that after dinner we could all just socialise and hang out, play music or dominoes or watch a movie.
She came grocery shopping with me and organised big salads every lunch-time and then cooked up a great big lamb curry that lasted for two evenings with the simple addition of a side dish of potatoes the first night and rice the second so that we didn’t have to think too much about food.
She understood that we were having problems working out some aspects of setting out (squaring up) the frame for the building and left us to it, we needed the space to be cranky!
However, I have to say that her decision to organise the outdoor bath was the coup de grace! It meant that firstly she wasn’t hanging around waiting for something to do and secondly it was one of those things that I had often thought about and not gotten around to so I was really delighted that it was happening! It also meant that we were not feeling guilty about not having an interesting building job for her to do!
So the things we have learn are to say no to help if we are not ready to use it. If someone is really enthusiastic about coming and we don’t have anything for them to do we need to make sure that they are capable of working by themselves on non-building related things and if not then they will have to put off their visit for another time.
We need to be organised about having help.
It is really important that we have a list of jobs to do for people with different skill sets.
If something needs to be taught then it is better to teach it someone who will be a regular volunteer rather than teach it over and over again to once-off visitors.
If people really want to come just to learn then we need to barter something in return – food brought and meals cooked or second hand useful building materials as an example. It needs to be acknowledged that we will loose a good deal of time in teaching so I think that we really need to look after ourselves in this regard.
It is also important to look after our helpers by ensuring that all on site eat well and have fun, we would like the house to have happy builders who enjoy hanging out, helping and learning from each other. We also expect that we will learn from those who come to help us.
Let’s not forget we need to have some energy left to play music and tell stories!
We do not just expect people to help without return, we are more than happy to barter for help given. If someone is prepared to give us a lot of work-time then we will return that favour after the house is built by helping when they are building themselves or by doing something that they need like assisting them to set up their own renewable energy system for example or helping with web design.
Help is wonderful, especially from people you want to hang out with, it’s just not as simple as it first seems…