This question is interesting, and often too telling. But I offer no solutions.
What’s in it for me?
Looks and sounds like a question but frankly it is not. What it is, is a statement, marked with implications. Give me something in return, for something that I do for you. It is completely understandable, for we all want compensation in any form.
Doing anything out of the kindness of your heart is in a sense a form of payment. But being kind and filling your heart with joy and humanitarianism doesn’t feed you or pay your bills. Favors and acts of kindness are meant to be done because they are something you want to do. This sense of kindness is self-induced. You want to help; therefore you do, and you leave feeling gratified because you did something for somebody. You were wanted, were helpful, and achieved in bettering someone else’s life either for a moment or forever. Being wanted is a phenomenon. Somebody needs you…you…of all the people in their life. You are the one they chose to ask for help of some kind. And you feel the urgency, delight, the honor as though you were a golden child–somebody, whoever that is, needs you.
I hate being asked to do things. Depending if it is the beginning of the day or end, I get flustered with the ask. In the past, I worked and went to school. Stressed about making money to pay my rent, and other bills, while at the same time, stressed about doing all of my reading, essay writing, and notes. Being asked to do something for someone else usually filled me with terror, because all I could think about was my time: my rest, the stories I could not write, other opportunities, family obligations. For me, I am someone who will most likely offer their assistance, which completely obliterates that feelings of terror and stress. Offering means I have made a choice to help and most likely that person will be grateful for it.
I worked with a girl who was in her early twenties, who constantly felt used, all the time when she would go out of her way to help someone. I was skeptical about her feelings, not because I did not believe them, but the way she spoke about the lack of appreciation. She had a tone that suggested she wanted something in return, a tone that said I did this for you, so you can recognize it. Two camps exist: the ones who do things out of the kindness of their hearts and the ones who do things for praise. Her experiences with helping people, often make me think of my question: what’s in it for me? Therefore, what was in it for her? I knew this girl only by her work ethic, and it was not very strong. She was not lazy, but she was sly. Always finding a way to get out of work, whether it was by asking or by smiling a very fake and adoring smile. She worked and she did not work. Like all of us, she had to work, as we all do who must survive. It is understandable. We try to get through the day without breaking a sweat, trying desperately to make it to that last minute, the purgatory of time where we are so close to leaving, and yet still feeling the hot hell of work licking your back. But when we make it out and we realize it was not as terrible as it could have been, therefore justifying those hours, possibly finding some moral. There is no thank you when it comes to work, it is not in work’s nature. I understood this girl, but I was unhappy with the way she treated work. Her idea of doing something for someone else was merit based, as though she was collecting chips so that she could cash them in one day. She is the type of girl to always ask for help, and try to sweet talk her way out of helping others, but when she does help, and she does not get the intended appreciation she deserves, she is quick to recognize it. It is an unbreakable cycle.
I am afraid to ask for help. Maybe that is a sign of weakness or maybe it is the other way around. Yet everyone needs something from someone. When I ask for help, I always think: What’s in it for them. Whether one believes it or not, you are at the mercy of someone when you ask for help, and at the same time there is a value that is placed on the one being asked. There are the ones you ask to do something for free and the ones that are asked for a fee. Compensation of some sort is used as a bargaining tool for someone you desperately need. The freeby is someone who will do it because they want to and see that you need help. It is easy to take advantage of these types of people. It is easy to get taken advantage of when you are desperate. I usually do not ask for help because I have nothing to offer, and it comes as a surprise when someone helps me without nothing in return. Since I have no money to offer, I must offer something else. Usually, it is my physical abilities. However, I am skeptical when it comes to physically working myself, considering that it is sadly in a positon I am in. I am someone with a white-collar spirit, always hoping to reside in a professional environment, but has worked service or blue collar jobs where the work is sometimes physically demanding. What I am afraid of is breaking something, ruining something or simply dying. Maybe it’s a phobia. Maybe it is smart thinking. Or maybe, I need to get into better shape so that I could do physically demanding work without fear. Then again that has nothing to do with an accident. It’s just recently I’ve attempt my bid at getting jobs that require my mind rather than my body, however until then I stand for 8 hours and move constantly, which is good, frankly, however it makes me shy away from help. What’s in it for me, if I throw out my back, or break my something–I’m toast.
This act of selflessness and need seems to be primitive. As it is in our very nature as people to help each other. Besides physically demanding work, I think of what I could never get out of my head. “Don’t be a mark,” was something my mother has said. It feels as though it permeates my existence. It comes from my mother helping and never, when she needed it, getting any help in return. What’s in it for me is a valid question. A question, however, which requires essential navigation so that it might get to the appropriate meaning. Maybe asking the question: What’s in it for me? can only be paired with the saying pick your battles. When is it appropriate to say What’s in it for me? Some might say your friends are only people you never ask. But then again, would your friends let you borrow a lump sum of money, and give it to you out of the kindness of their heart. Maybe it is all relative. However, it is impossible to not want something in return, even if it is your friends. In a time where things are getting more expensive, as the citizens are paid less and less for everything, time is money, that old saying, and there is very little time we are willing to waste for nothing. There is no solution. There are people who have that luxury of helping without clauses in the verbal contract, and there are people want nothing else but to help someone.