Poetry Friday: On Being a Helper

Late this morning, I retreated. I retreated to the lower floor of our house.  I dragged a chair, one of those lightweight IKEA Poem Chairs that we’ve had since our first apartment in Baltimore Maryland, over to the spot of sun that was slipping in our patio door and splashing light on the tile.

I retreated.

I was trying to be helpful.

But, I was not.

I saw the frustration in the eyes of my senior. Earlier, we had some words.

Over something stupid.

I think one way and I thought he was thinking another.

But, no. We were on the same page.

Both looking for explanations for this current schooling situation when there are none.

I dug in and so did he.

He just wanted to know what something meant.

And, I explained too much.

So much, that my explanation ended in an ultimatum.

He didn’t need that, and truthfully, I didn’t need to say what I did.

But, I did.

So, I retreated.

I went to bask in the morning sunlight, sewing the remainder of my fabric masks

for our family and another.

I listened to music.

I soaked in the sun that I so badly needed as the stress of being couped up began to show.

This batch of masks is finished. I am helping. I am a helper.

But, being a helper has its limits.

This I know for sure.

For some reason, my experience earlier today reminded me of some early life experiences helping. I’ve always been a helper. In middle school, I went to help a teacher run dittos on the mimeograph machine (Yes, I am dating myself). In high school, I tutored a friend in biology. In college, I continued to be a peer tutor for our school of nursing. I’ve run a craft class at a local museum, developed community & school groups, and worked thousands of hours as a master gardener. There can be no doubt that I am a helper.

So, when it came time to blog today. I reflected on my thoughts about being a helper. There must be a poem about helpers, I told myself. I wandered to my bookshelf. There, in a poetry book by Shel Silverstein, I found it!

It goes like this:


Agatha Fry, she made a pie

And Christopher John helped bake it.

Christopher John mowed the lawn,

And Agatha Fry helped rake it.

Zachary Zugg took out the run,

 And Jennifer Joy helped shake it.

And Jennifer Joy, she made a toy,

And Zachary Zugg helped break it.


And some kind of help

Is the kind of help

That helping’s all about.

And some kind of help

Is the kind of help

We can all do without.


By Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends, 1974.


My thoughts exactly!


Today is Poetry Friday! It is brought to us by NixTheComfortZone blog. Thank you for hosting!


10 thoughts

  1. I think you need to give yourself some grace. This is hard on all of us, and I am sure your son will realize that. My heart aches for him being a senior. They are losing much for helping others. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for writing this – about giving myself some grace! I took your words to heart and really thought about how I could offer myself this gift. I believe you are right and am trying to re-frame things to be able to live with more grace. I think my son


  2. “I explained too much” – yes, this resonates with me when trying to ‘help’ my now young adult/teen daughters. Your poem and Silverstein’s show exactly how helping can cross the line into something else. Thanks for sharing and sending positive vibes for your senior. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! It is what I did and did not realize it until after all was said and done. I could have just answered his question and stopped. We’re all good now. By the time we went to bed, we had explained ourselves to each other. Thanks for the good vibes!


  3. This is such a challenging time for all of us. I was struck by the fact that you chose to retreat (wise move–give yourself a pat on the back!) and then chose to continue in your helping role by sewing masks. I hope you’ve had a chance to talk it through with your son now that you’ve had a little distance. Maybe share this poem? Take care and don’t be too hard on yourself.


  4. I have two college seniors at my house. Most of the time we are all coping pretty well, and then there are those days when we all need to retreat to regain our balance. Yes, we all need to give each other – and ourselves – grace. My daughter has also been making masks.


  5. We are all doing our best, and you are doing an amazing job! We have our adult daughter (who lives overseas, usually) sheltering in with us. Her life is totally uprooted, and all our quiet routines are changed. We love each other so much, but it’s a lot of sudden togetherness. Just keep helping, and keep being kind to yourself. If only we allowed ourselves the same mistakes we allow others. :>)


  6. You have shared one of the few poems that I know by heart! Yes, this times of togetherness can give rise to stress and a few outbreaks. Then we work on forgiveness. Thanks for this post, I relate to it… and enjoyed it.


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