Authors on the Bench – January 2022

January 25, 2022

The trouble with favors…

It’s happened to us all. We try to do someone a favor, and it backfires (sometimes spectacularly). What good turn have you done for a person (or has someone done for you) that didn’t work out quite as planned?

CHERYL: I casually mentioned to my sister that we should do something to surprise my parents for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Poof! I was in charge of a buffet dinner for sixty relatives at my tiny apartment. It was a ton of work and a wonderful memory for us all.

DEBRA: When I was in high school, a friend, knowing I celebrate Chanukah, made me a Chanukah bush. Instead of accepting it gracefully, I tried to explain that we don’t have Chanukah bushes or Christmas trees. We light a menorah to symbolize the eight days that the Temple’s oil that should only have been enough for one day lasted. To this day, I regret my behavior…a pedantic response to a gift that came from the heart. 

DIANE: When I first started college, I decided it was time to put away the introverted version of me from high school and become outgoing. So, Day 1 Class 1 of my first semester I came prepared to win friends and influence people. I got to the lecture hall early to claim a good seat, then decided to grab a hot chocolate from the vending machine (as I started with the winter session). In keeping with my new persona, I asked the girl seated next to me if she’d like a drink, too…my treat. She said yes, so off I went. In a few minutes I was back with two paper cups filled with hot chocolate. I set hers on her desk, turned to take my seat, and my winter coat I was wearing flared out and knocked her cup of cocoa right into her lap! Once I’d helped scrub the worst of the chocolate off her, I skulked my way to a seat in the far back of the lecture hall, where I stayed for the rest of the semester. So much for new personae! 

LOIS: Years ago, a dear friend developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He and his wife had two very young children. My husband and I raised money to make his home handicap accessible, including an addition to add a bathroom on the first floor. When he became wheelchair-bound and could no longer drive, I drove him to work every morning on my way to work. I organized babysitting and meals through the members of our church. When he could no longer work, we raised additional funds for the home healthcare services not covered by their insurance, so his wife didn’t have to quit her job to care for him 24/7. After he died, his wife cut us completely out of her and the children’s lives. Nearly thirty years later, it’s still a very painful memory, not only for me and my husband but for my sons, who considered those two girls practically their little sisters.

MAGGIE: For many years I sought comfort clothing, first for “downtime” and then for most everything. It just worked better for me and my not-always-cooperative hands. As members of our family aged, I volunteered to update their wardrobes to senior-friendly attire, searching for bargains that were just right. Due to the minor sewing skills I have, this also included modifying pullover tops to ones that open in the front or back as needed, or in the case of one relative, searching out different styles of undergarments. I became a personal shopper. My relatives were very happy to have clothing that worked for their stage of life. Not only did I derive satisfaction from making a difference for them, I realized that helping comes in all shapes and forms. I also learned that the challenges I’d faced most of my life could now illuminate the path for folks who struggled with sudden infirmity or were frustrated because even the simplest task of dressing was now beyond them. I realized that I didn’t have to be a fit or “perfect” person to help. I just had to quit making excuses and dive in. Life-changing news for me.

NANCY: I didn’t do a favor once when asked and it got me in trouble with a friend. But it was bad timing for me that week and she had an alternative. She was trying to save money by having me pick up a furniture item in my SUV and deliver it to her place. She could have just paid for delivery service at the furniture store, which is what I would have done rather than imposing on anyone. But she didn’t see it that way and this made for a months-long rift between us. In retrospect, I should have just agreed. I learned a lesson that when someone asks a favor, they don’t give you the option to refuse.

TERRY: A long time ago, I worked for a public utility. We were governed by a Public Utilities Board and one of the board members asked me if I would join the local Kiwanis Club to represent the utility. I agreed…and was promptly put into the rotation to become president within a couple of years. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my willingness to participate would set me up to create a web design business that would help other Kiwanis clubs for years to come. 


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