Jul 29

“Help” is a tricky thing, I’ve learned over these past few years.  Help is hard to define, hard to identify, often consists of a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of dynamic.  And, sometimes additional burdens end up being heaped on the “helpee” even when intentions are the opposite.  I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good helpee, and I say no when I don’t have the capacity to receive something or if what’s being offered isn’t actually helpful (despite the intentions of the offer.)

As you know I’ve opened the door for “help” in various capacities over the past few years.  My mother-in-law (SuperGramma) has swept in on a few occasions to fill my shoes when I am bedridden.  A caravan of meal wagons are lovingly delivered: in each meal I see the personality and gifting of the person who created it.  My landscaping blooms with a cheerful memories of the day it was planted; it can’t help but thrive.  At this point there’s no question that my windows and my floors are more likely to be cleaned by servant-hearted friends rather than by me.  As a family, our fun moments are buoyed higher by the gifted-ness that is often bundled with them: a gift card, an experience shared, a sacrifice of someone else for the blessing of us.  I put a laundry bin of dirty clothes on my back porch and it magically returns folded and ready to put away.

Most of the time help is like this, real and life-giving.  Occasionally, when I’m disorganized or over-tired or grouchy, help is exhausting… I overbooked in some capacity.  But I’m always learning how to receive better.  I think being a good receiver is probably as important as being a good giver.  Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself these days.  🙂

Good help allows me to be Batman.  As Batman, I become the best version of myself: my Jen-ness shines as I write, run, serve, and hope.  As Batman, I’m the hero to my children: the fun mom who says yes and plays with them and tapes the artwork to the wall and asks interesting questions.  As Batman I’m available to Brad: not distracted with a woefully long to do list and feelings of inadequacy.  As Batman I have the space and spark in my mind for interesting conversations with friends — my people make me better, and I like to think I make my people better.  As Batman I breathe in the truth and life that I love and am beloved, and I am someone who makes my little world a better place for the people I love.

It’s Robin that allows me to be Batman in all the scenarios above.  Robin is the name I’ve come up with for true help.  Robin is the sidekick who gets no spotlight.  The thankless tasks are done by Robin, who does it with grace and ease and cheer.  DC Comics describe Robin as full of “optimism, energy and youthful exuberance”.  Robin leverages all of that awesome so that Batman can be better.  As my Robin zooms around my house and family this month, I am freed up.  Robin comes to serve — a selfless, sacrificial calling which I hope to repay someday — but I have to step back so she can step in.   I had to decide to “let her” serve me in my space… which is the opposite of how my hospitality gene is wired, so it is still hard for me.  As she laundry’ed and unloaded the dishwasher and put away the toys, I researched and signed my kids up for fall activities and wrote.  As she made a slumber party of fun, I had a rare night out with Chief Sister as just the two of us.  As she cooked (and cooked and cooked) I had hours of time gifted back to me.  Time that could carry weight and substance rather than slip through my fingers.  Robin goes home tired after serving me.  Sharing my space is not glamorous or sparkly.  But it is so, so full of love and our love is bigger and wider and deeper and fuller because of her Robin to my Batman.

As I type my aunt is winging away back to Australia after spending nearly a month in Ohio.  She “Robin-ed” me and my family and gave us an awesome month.  All of our regular helpers got a month off while she Tasmanian devil-ed all of the tasks in our house.  I am so grateful for the real service and help she gave us with her time and energy, and also for the powerful potent love she represented from my Australian family.

Thanks for helping me to be the very vest version of Batman Jen, Robin.  I think you are amazing.


  1. Marlayne /

    Safe travels Robin ~ You are a part of an amazing family <3 I never quite thought of "Robin" being in my life ~ As of March 30th of this year I found out that I couldn't do everything & be everything to my husband ~ I also had to ask for help in my line of work (have a team to step in, when I had to step out to help w/my husband) My husband is in a Memory Center & there are a bunch of Robins there to help ~ So when I come in, I can visit & be a Robin for the Robins ~ I can help take over for a short time w/Tom, so the Robins can spend a bit more time on the other residents ~ Jen, you have helped me so much in my journey & I know Thank You isn't much; however, I want you to know just how much I see you give to others (even though you might not feel like you are it at times) You are a Beautiful Person w/a Capital "B" Many Blessings & Prayers 🙂

  2. Carli /

    Reading this brought such a smile to my face. You have such an awesome village- inspired by an awesome you. Love you lots!


  3. Sue Brelsford and Bob McNeil /

    All done with and by love! What a satisfying feeling she’s taking home with her.

  4. Diana Gibson /

    Love your Robin analogy – knew it from my teens just didn’t have a name for it! Was given this lesson by mother of teen friend who needed a bed in the lounge of their little 2 storey home as her illness progressed. Sitting with her on beautiful sunny day with doors wide open, she started talking about the difficulties of her “new lifestyle” on her family and the way it had changed her kids lives as they became givers rather than receivers of her largess but how hard she found it to accept rather than do. The so many “Robins” in her life now was overwhelming at times and she had to seek within herself an ongoing thankfulness and acceptance that her situation actually gave others the opportunity to fulfil their needs to GIVE to others – a double whammy of learning!
    Your posts take me way back to then and a lesson that Maureen showed me, one that i shared with my cousin Kathy as her living with cancer days became more onerous. The result of so many Robins in her life was a kitchen full of empty food containers/bowls/pans as the community fed her man and 3 boys in the last 9 months of her life. Our celebration of her life wake was joyous, with much laughter, and tears, with memories of the meals prepared and shared as families reclaimed their bowls!!
    Power on Batman – Robin needs you as much as you need him/her/them.

  5. Mommaj /

    It’s out of Love that we serve one another…. The blessing is in giving to others!! The joy truly belongs to your Village!! Love this analogy Jen, I love you!!