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richard-branson-giving-employees-freedomI have more or less, been on my own since I was 16. I was working full time and supporting myself entirely by the time I was 17. I did not graduate from high school, and ended up getting my GED. I was living in the mountains in a little A-Frame with half a dozen chickens and 3 stoner brothers; cooking and cleaning for that very messy crew, and working full time. I was not good at it, but I did it. I recall sculpting a pile of laundry into a chair shape, and throwing a blanket over it to camouflage the mess when “guests” were coming over. There was music and drugs, and people and parties and macaroni and cheese which I dressed up with the addition of peas. I stepped into adulthood and the responsibilities of being an adult prematurely. This was anything but a traditional way to grow up, and it was my journey and I walked each step of that path and fell down and got up, and fell down… and got up.

By the time I was 23 and my son was born, I was completely immersed in my independence to the point that I could not ask for help. I had this deep shame associated with the need to receive support or assistance, as if needing help somehow meant I was weak or a failure. The baby was born, and I was working full time and going to school part time and there was no other way. I was forced to reconcile my refusal to ask for, and receive help. It was painful. I felt horrible about myself. I needed help. I asked for help, and I received help. I asked for money so I could pay my tuition. I received it. I signed up for food stamps so I could feed myself and the baby. I received them and I shopped at midnight so I would not have to see people. I asked my friends, family, and co-workers to help me with my son and they all did. I felt awful about myself.

As time went on, I asked for help, received help and I started to become more comfortable with receiving. Started to realize, this was normal. Soon, that period of being the person in need faded and I got on top of my life. Eventually, every now and again, someone would ask me for help, and I was able to help them. More and more the exchange of help and the giving and receiving in my life increased and I saw and felt the balance, and the guilt and shame I felt when receiving diminished.

Now, I fully understand and appreciate the inherent human need to give and receive, to share and to exchange and to work together so that we all can succeed. This increases intimacy and a sense of purpose and belonging. I borrowed every penny to open my schools, and as of this year I will have paid it all back. I did not borrow the money from a bank, but from my friends and my family. I’m eternally grateful and I know they all feel incredibly good about their investment in this project which has created ripples of loving peace all over the world.

I’m writing this today, because there have been a few younger people who have come my way who have wished to attend my school. They can see themselves doing this work and need a break to help launch themselves. They do not have the funding, and feel inhibited in asking for support. There have been a few I have coached over the edge of that belief, and they have broken through. I have encouraged them that if they ask for and receive help now, they will be able to serve this world at a much higher level with their new skills. Ultimately, that is what happens. Still, there are those who won’t ask for help and they don’t come. It makes me so sad when this happens because I know there is a deep cultural shame or embarrassment if not pride that prevents them from asking for assistance from the people in their lives who could help.

As a middle aged person who has needed help and had to come face to face with the fear of asking, I want to let anyone who needs help to hear this message. When you have a need, and you ask others for help, you create an amazing opportunity for someone who has the need to give and to share. It’s reciprocal. The joy and healing that can happen for a person who has received at some point in their life, to GIVE is a full circle blessing.

Ask for the help you need. Visualize what you want to create and don’t let the fact that you need help stop you from moving forward. Ask for help. Receive help. Keep your commitments to pay all debts back and be sure to give when it comes time and you are being asked for support.

We are all in a position to give to and care for others in so many ways. Especially those of us who have been lucky enough to be born with the privilege of freedom. I want to be sure to state that just because one lives in a free country does not mean they are free. There are many MANY seriously oppressed people who the lucky few can give to. The list of those in need is crushing and heavy, and we need to take care of our brothers and sisters and the animals. I’m going to try to dig deeper and give more this time…

Since it is the holiday, I will just add that GIVING should come from one’s heart, and my message to my step-daughters this time of year is this: There comes a time when you realize that the gift is in the giving not the receiving, and when you give… don’t expect reciprocation, you already receive by giving alone.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill Berkana LMT Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista