are you a helper or a needer? how do you join the circle?

by rebecca on March 15, 2012

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When a circle of helpers meet a circle of needs the bodies shuffle around and a new circle is made.

I am interested in how people belong to circles, how circles evolve, and how “helping” and “needing” draw people to the circle or push them away.

There was smoke last night billowing up from my neighbor’s place. I wandered up the road to see if the fire was under control. Where I live, everyone burns their property this time of year. Sometimes, when the wind kicks up, a fire can get out of hand quickly. I wondered if she needed any help.

I like to be helpful. That’s my MO. It’s how I belong. Helping is my front door of friendship. “You need something to eat?” I can cook. “You need a ride?” I can drive. “You need me to listen while you unload about your sister who tied you to her bedpost 30 years ago?” I’m your gal.

So I wandered up the road, following the clouds of smoke, in hopes of finding a place in her life by offering help.

But it was peaceful and lovely. There were no fires to put out. I lingered there, unneeded… until we ended up chatting while the dead grass turned to black soot and the sun set, burning white clouds  into flame.

The truth was I  had had a hard day. I was complaining. I was lonely and I didn’t know where I belonged anymore.

And then we were laughing.

This is the magic of friends and fire and big skies filled with a setting sun.

That first picture up there is my tribe of coach friends. They are all helper-identified-people like me. The second circle of hands belongs to murderers and sex offenders. They long to help also.

I brought cupcakes to the last writing class I taught at the facility where they were being detained. They lit up when tears caught in the corner of my eyes because that was all the confirmation they needed to be assured they’d impacted me. Changed me. Belonged to me.

There are so many times in my life that I head down the road thinking I’m going to go offer help.  “I’ll teach the prisoners,”  I  say, eager to march through the front door of belonging.  Then I am the one who gains clarity on the other side of my pen.

I love that life is a circle.

I love that every time I think I’m offering my gift to the world, the world lays a present in my lap. This is humbling and hopeful at every turn.

I went to help fight a fire at my neighbor’s house and I ended up venting about my bad day. I took my pencils and paper to prison and learned about freedom.

I am in need. Will you come sit at my fire circle? For real? I want to sit in a circle with others where needs and helps are equally exchanged and one currency is not more valuable than another, but each simply allows more space around the fire. I’m not even sure yet what I’m trying to make.  I’m just thinking about circles and fire.  What if I lit the match in September?  Would you come add your hands?

Are you more comfortable helping or needing?  What is at the center of your circle that links you to other people? Have you ever had a fire get away from you?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

SuziCate March 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm

This post made me think about something my high school friend once wrote. She wrote about how when we were in gym class on the trampoline and had spotters all around to catch us if we fall over the edge, and went on to say how in life we become “spotters” or “spottees”. Her point was that every once in a while the spotter needs someone to look out for them as well. They need someone to catch them when they are falling. She’s right. We all need someone, and we all need to belong. Wish I was nearby to sit at your fire circle…this reminds me of when we are on the river property and gather around the fire for a drink, a song, a story, or just to share our presence with one another beneath the stars. (and those stone bracelets in the first pic are sooo me…feel like they are my tribal friends!)


rebecca March 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Oooh! Love that trampoline analogy. Yes, we are all spotting one another.

I’ll send myself to your fire, SuziCate and we’ll light a match when next you are out west.


Yvette Francino March 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hi Rebecca,
I’d be honored to be in your circle if there is a way… I’m not sure what September will bring, but I hope if I can’t be there physically, I can still somehow participate.

I’m more comfortable as a giver, but I know that I also need the people in my life to be there for me. I’m learning to feel more comfortable with “receiving” realizing that giving/receiving are part of the same circle, as you say…


rebecca March 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

“Giving/receiving are part of the same circle.” Love that. I didn’t say it like that, but you’ve found my meaning and I love those words.


Kristen @ Motherese March 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Like SuziCate, I resonate to the beautiful stone bracelets you and your coach friends all wear in the first photo. Come to think of it, a very special person sent me a stone bracelet when my daughter was born and I treasure it and think of her every time I wear it. Life is a circle indeed.

I consider myself fortunate to sit at your fire. You hold my needs for me and help me help myself. If I could ever be a “spotter” (to borrow SuziCate’s analogy) for you, I’d be honored.



rebecca April 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

You are a perfect example, Kristen, of helping me by living your big life filled with happiness. I gain clarity by watching you as you find your Writer’s Voice and explore all that means. I find myself in the moments of motherhood and other “hoods” that you explore.

By expanding and strengthening the circle that is you, you support me. Isn’t that lovely?


rachel April 2, 2012 at 2:30 am

i hadn’t been by in a bit (in too long, really) and the gift of reading this post when i returned almost brought me to tears.

i have a hard time saying people belong to me. when i saw you say it, though, i felt myself swell to fullness. i am so many threads from so many people. thank you for making that feel peaceful for me.

have you read “the road” by cormac mccarthy? they are carrying the fire in that book. i would love to sit in your fire circle and i hope you know that, without ever having met face to face, i carry your fire with me if you ever need help finding it.

with love and gratitude,


rebecca April 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm

This was a very vulnerable post for me to write. Thank you for responding with such vigor. Because belonging is a big thing for me.

Cormac McCarthy is one of my husband’s favorite authors. I have not read this, no. But perhaps I need to. Thank you for this awareness at this time. Just two days after writing this post I learned to MAKE fire. I think pre-remembering our lives is pretty cool stuff.

Thank you, Rachel, for joining my circle so completely. It means the world to me.


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