Spending time in my kitchen with bare feet, the music on, and a glass of wine to sip is my favorite way to relax when I’m not bound by constraints of time or energy. I do have a limit of what I can handle on my own, and once I cross it cooking becomes stressful if I don’t ask for help.
Everyone who is a part of our community dinners is willing to provide relief. I just need to be honest with myself and others that I need help. And ask.
However, how I ask matters.
If I have to give everyone constant direction, then I’m merely doing different work rather than less work.
I have learned that when I’m organizing a community of people with varying personalities, kitchen experience, and work ethic – remembering these three things will enable my request for help to actually result in reduced work for me:
- I must be specific about what I need. A general call for help doesn’t result in a lot of assistance, even if guests are well-intentioned. My requests need to be clear and directed at individual people. “(Insert name) can you please set 12 glasses on the table.” “(Different name) can you please put 12 plates on the table.” Etc.
- I need to invite people to rummage through my cupboards and drawers, and know where things are. I want the community that I cook for to feel at home in my kitchen and around my table. I want them to know where things are and feel confident finding and grabbing what they need without having to ask me. But many people will not give themselves permission to do this. I need to invite them.
- People need to have the freedom to do things their own way. I don’t care if the napkins are on the right or left or middle of the plate. I don’t care how my dishwasher is loaded as long as nothing will break and everything is dishwasher safe. Micro-managing does not save me any time or energy, and it does not make people eager to help next time.
Doing everything or my guests not create a sense of community in my home. A significant contributor to community development is inviting guests to add value to the effort of running my home. People crave opportunities to by recognized for their unique creativity, competence, and usefulness.
Your line where you need help to enjoy nourishing community may be different than mine. But the important thing to realize is that we all have a limit. Be honest with yourself and your community about where your limit is, asking for help when you get to that point, and develop a system that works for you that actually makes help helpful.