Why help makes the best glue

I am five years old. I’m in my bedroom with my coloured pencils and colouring book. Opening the book, I grab a pencil and start colouring. And then, it happens—the thing that always happens to kids my age. I simply cannot stay inside the lines. I am frustrated. It is SO FRUSTRATING!

Crying out for my mum to save me from this colouring disaster, she opens the door. “What’s wrong?”


She sits next to me. She takes a pencil. She shows me how to do it. “Stay calm, take a deep breath, and move the pencil around the edges of the picture, like this,” she explains. I watch her carefully. I follow her instructions. I fail a few times. And then, like magic, I am no longer going outside the lines. I am a colouring genius.

And all it took was one word—help.

It has taken me a couple of decades, some academic research and a little reminiscing to get to this simple truth… that in a weird way, help is like glue.

When something is broken, vexingly incomplete, help is the best way to fix it. Help is a tool for piecing things back together and making them whole again. It’s a way to fill the gaps in our knowledge. And above all, it’s a means of strengthening bonds between us by sharing our vulnerabilities, understanding and experience.

Asking for help is the first step toward fixing what’s broken.
Broken gadget? Ask for help.

Broken bone? Ask for help.

Broken spirit? Ask for help.

Help! I need somebody.

Asking for help is the first step toward fixing what’s broken; the first sign that we are human. Whether we’re dealing with a dying plant or an overcooked roast, struggling through a new job or a failing business, coping with depression or addiction, we shouldn’t, needn’t, can’t be afraid to ask for help.

Help helps us learn about ourselves, others and the world around us.
Help may not erase the issue; some issues aren’t so easily fixed. But help—both in the asking and receiving—helps us learn about ourselves, others and the world around us. Why are we feeling frustrated? Who can we turn to? How can we feel that magical moment of genius when the universe, through a friend or a stranger, reveals a simple little secret and makes things better?

If we all asked for help when we needed it, we wouldn’t just disentangle that one issue; we’d grow wiser and tackle other new challenges more creatively. My own cluelessness at repair led me to organise a Festival of Making and Mending where everything from broken phones to holey socks to creaky bikes got fixed. Without a bit of tender loving care, these items might have sat sadly in the cupboard, at best, or at worst been thrown away, adding to our collective mountain of wasted, neglected stuff. Instead, the broken got mended, we made some new friends and learned something along the way.

So, whether you’re someone who stays inside the lines, or who intentionally colours outside them, give it a try. Don’t be shy. Ask for help, and watch things change for the better. Because as my mum also told me (she’s French, you see), “On cultive la terre comme on se cultive pour rendre la vie fertile.” We improve the land in the same way that we improve ourselves in order to make our lives more fruitful. In other words, help (and what we learn from it) helps us, others and our world, thrive.


Follow Marie on Twitter at @thisismarlefeed.

Photo credit (header): Quinn Dombrowski