We were hosting a potluck with family and I was in charge of cooking the standing rib roast (aka prime rib). It was my first time cooking this dish which is popular in the USA at this time of year. Leading up to the cooking day, we researched portion sizes and cooking approaches. Beforehand, we decided not to bother with frenching the ribs since it seemed more cosmetic than practical and to skip tying the ribs since we didn’t have twine. As plans go, on cooking day I read that twine helped the rib cook more evenly, so I found myself asking my mom and a neighbor:

    Do you have any cooking twine I could borrow this morning?

My neighbor graciously gave me nearly the exact amount of twine to tie our ribs. And the potluck was fantastic. Not because of twine or ribs alone, but because of relationships. Neighbors helping each other out. Family bringing all of the food for a potluck. At potlucks we get to see each other but also get to know each other a little more through the sharing of food we’ve each prepared. Some bring family recipes others have never seen that everyone enjoys. Some demonstrate their care through the intricately organized charcuterie. Some ask if they can help others. Some ask if they can help clean. Some just help clean. Lending a hand seems to come easily.

Asking for a hand seems harder. Perhaps we don’t want to bother or “burden” them

    They’re busy enough, I don’t want to add to their plate.

Perhaps we want to be able to do it alone - after all, we have been balancing attachment and autonomy our entire lives.

We are starting a garden in our backyard this year. Through the process of exploring motivations, gathering courage, learning about steps, etc, I’ve noticed countless opportunities to ask for help. Sometimes my request is easy and direct - a short text to family and friends asking for tips and resources. Other times my future plans come up during a catch up - perhaps while the kids are at the playground I mention to parent friends that I’m working on a garden and trying to find quality bulk soil and wondering if they know where to get the good stuff. Most people I’ve asked so far haven’t dealt with bulk soil.

Last week I was having coffee with a friend and former colleague. I brought up the garden, not to talk about the garden, but to talk about how I find it interesting that there are opportunities in the process where I can make connecting bids to ask for help or take isolating steps to be “self-sufficient”.

I could ask a friend to borrow their truck (and their time/labor) to pickup soil from a vendor and transport it ourselves to our driveway. Or I could pay a vendor for delivery.

I could ask a friend to borrow a wheel barrow and/or a flat shovel which will be necessary to move the soil from the driveway to the backyard where the garden bed is. Or I could buy these tools. Or both!

I could ask a friend to borrow a branch lopper so I could trim up the branches for the base of the garden that Leo and I harvested from the recent bulk branch curbside pickup in our neighborhood. Or I could process the branches with my existing toolset.

Even the garden itself could be seen as isolating if we focus on food security as the top priority. We could theoretically try to eat only what we grow (eventually), buy more land, do everything ourselves.

However, I want the garden to be connecting, not isolating. To notice, to respect, to deepen appreciation, to enjoy each other more. One of the motivations for the garden comes from the reality that we’re all already connected: you, me, my family, my neighborhood, the ladybugs and worms who I hope will flourish in our garden, the mycelium which transport life generating nutrients within the soil and the towering basil. I want the garden to be yet another way we can connect with each other. To learn, to notice, to respect, to enjoy each other.

In many ways, it can appear that our lives have gotten away from the proverbial village that it once took. I can buy whatever tools I need to become more “food self-sufficient”. I can watch videos and read books to learn about how to grow healthy plants. However, to me, steps which can strengthen the village are well worth it - even if a little socially awkward at times right now. The more we practice asking now, the more comfortable we become at asking. With more asking, we’ll have a better understanding of each other and richer relationships. That’s totally worth it.


  • Am I always connecting and never isolating? Do I always evaluate decisions through the connecting-isolating lense? No - it’s not practical all of the time! The lense is a tool, not a judgmental prescription.
  • Do you know people who are great at asking for help? When I’ve talked with a few people during drafting this post, I get the impression that the majority of people (in North America at least) are conditioned to avoid asking for help and therefore find it harder than giving help. Admittedly, I have a small sample size and haven’t researched this point much beyond my few conversations and personal experiences.
  • Does this tendency to strive for “self-sufficiency” to the extreme of rarely asking for help simply arise from the human need for autonomy and independence? Or is it an influence of living in a capitalistic society? Or both?
  • When does asking for help go too far and slide into taking advantage of someone else? This was a topic that came up when reviewing the draft with Mar. It reminds me of an episode of We Can Do Hard Things about narcissism where Abby was asking essentially “I really don’t want to be a narcissist, how would I know if I am?” and the interviewee in summary said “Abby, that you’re concerned about the risk means you probably won’t be”. I think there’s an analog here. We’ll notice how our requests for help are responded to, and adapt. And if we don’t, our requests will receive a non response :D and hopefully we’ll get the picture haha
  • My mom suggested a title of “Villaging” for this post after reading a draft. I thought it was a fantastic term to describe some thoughts and actions which may be getting back to the proverbial village. Urban Dictionary has a different definition related to defeating an opponent in a sport so I was a little hestitant to use the term. In the end, I riffed off of her idea to make the current title. Thanks mom for being my persistent professor and adviser for life.

My recent environment

My life, my writing, and my interpretation of reality is influenced by my environment. So, here is some of what was happening recently that might be influencing this writing.

  • www.thegreatsimplification.com - economy, energy, ecology, human behavior, overshoot, climate change, planetary boundaries
  • Lots of family, friend, and climbing in 2023
  • Started reading the news again after October 7, 2023 when Hamas terrorized Israel after not having read the news for years
  • Got off of LinkedIn