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Why Asking For Help Makes Military Wives Stronger

By Sarah Smiley

There are two things I hate doing: the lawn and the trash. When counting down the days until homecoming, some women choose to track paydays, school days, or Mondays. Me? I always counted trash days. "Just 12 more times of taking out the trash," Iíd yell across the street to my neighbor as I rolled the can to the curb.

And when the cruise (my husbandís first in 2001) was extended, not a neighbor was spared my ranting and raving over having to take out the trash "yet another two weeks!" Each time I rolled the green, heavy bin down the driveway, I considered it one of the most intolerable jobs of a Navy wife.

That same deployment my front yard was invaded with fire ants, crab grass, and some type of crepe myrtle fungus, which was never identified. I let these problems go ďunnoticed,Ē believing they might magically disappear and I wouldnít have to actually care for the grass myself.

And the yard problems did go away. My sympathetic neighbor next door became my complimentary yardman. (Although, Iíve always wondered if it was true charity which prompted him to mow my grass each week, or rather a fear that the chinch bugs would crawl over to his side.) Either way, I had free lawn service.

Occasionally, a neighbor would take pity on me and replace my trashcan back to the side of the house after the garbage men were done with it.

And once, when I had maggots in the bottom of the bin, a few men from the neighborhood were nice enough to dispose of them and Clorox the trashcan, and not tell me about the whole incident until a year later (they knew better).

"It takes a village to do Sarahís trash," one neighbor joked.

And sometimes it also took a village to change Sarahís flat tire, to kill big bugs in her living room, and to fetch her sonís toy airplane that landed on the roof.

Towards the end of that deployment, I began to feel guilty. I wondered if I wasnít being strong enough and if I shouldnít take my title of "Navy dependent" so literally as to mean I was, well, dependent.

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"Donít be silly," my neighbors would say. "Weíre glad to help." More than hanging a flag from their door, they said helping a Navy family made them feel like they were doing their part.

Surprisingly (to me), despite doing my lawn every week and occasionally my trash and home repairs, these neighbors often told me I was far from "dependent."

Instead of focusing on the things I was not doing myself, my neighbors were in awe at the things I had done alone. And most of these things (caring for sick babies in the middle of the night, dealing with emergencies), I had done without my realizing it or giving myself credit.

I learned that being strong and independent doesnít necessarily mean doing it all.

Most things in life do require a "village," and there are few people who can do everything themselves. Itís OK to ask for and accept help. Most people are eager to give it.

We all have our limits (apparently mine are maggots and chinch bugs), and itís best if we know them. Thatís the true makings of a strong military wife.

© Sarah Smiley - Sarah Smiley's syndicated column Shore Duty appears weekly in newspapers across the country.


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