June 30, 2014

A Beekeeper’s Simple Guide to Receiving Help. ~ Sarah Red-Laird

Saving Bees

I continue to learn life lessons that I didn’t expect to come from being a beekeeper and teaching people about bees.

I am the director of a small nonprofit, where I get the pleasure to wake up every day and “live the dream” of existing for my passion. This can be elating, gratifying and wondrous. But sometimes, and often in the same day, can be overwhelming, depressing and deflating.

This year I have learned important lessons on the topic of “help.” Asking for it, and accepting the offer of it, is essential. However, be careful, mindful and aware when entering into a situation of accepting it. Being in a position where you are receiving help makes you vulnerable; you have a loss of control over outcomes that can affect your personal life and work deeply.

If the person or organization that offers help fails, you can feel victimized, jaded, lost and confused; your reputation and your livelihood may be damaged. On the upside, if the help pulls through, you feel like you’ve been blessed by the heavens, that the world is good, that you can do the impossible. I have learned, the hard way, that there are people I can trust to help and people that I can’t.

Shouldn’t we always accept help? Isn’t it the thought that counts? Should we be picky about what someone is graciously offering?

From recently being totally pummeled by an avalanche of small and large dropped help balls, I learned at least five things that I wanted to share with you.

1. Be very clear when accepting help.

“You’re so awesome, thank you for the amazing offer! How many (hours of time, pieces of product, number of phone calls) can you give and what is the exact date that I will have them.” This can feel so awkward. “Who am I to be so demanding when they are offering me something?” Believe me, being clear from the beginning is the best thing to do for all parties involved in the end! This is hard to do the first few times, but is a great practice in direct communication.

2. Have a back-up plan

This is also known as,  “Expect the best, plan for the worst.” It’s exhausting always assuming the worst of people and their offers of good deeds. But it’s more exhausting cleaning up the mess when you didn’t see their failure to follow through coming. Keep a journal, make mental notes in that steel trap mind of yours, or your calendar. If person A hasn’t come through by date B, I will default to the set of actions X, Y and Z.

3. Try your very hardest not to take it personally.

This is the hardest part. People often say things they don’t mean and make promises they can’t keep when they are in the moment. When you are in need of help, you are open, vulnerable and emotional. When said person doesn’t deliver, they probably don’t even think it’s a big deal; meanwhile you are suffering the soul-crushing consequences of their in-action.

Just try as hard as you possibly can to process the situation from a place of unemotional perception and move on with your back up plan. And sometimes, just sometimes, the universe will have a plan for you that is even better!

4. Don’t be that guy (or girl)!

Think hard before you offer help. Are you prepared to follow through? Can you realistically meet the helpee’s needs, wants, expectations? If not, say no, or don’t offer in the first place. Your heart may be in the right place, but if your actions can’t support it you may do some serious damage.

5. Be thankful.

If your knight (or knightette) in shining armor does pull through let them know the difference they made in your life with exponential verbal praise, hand written cards, updates on the success of your project, your health, your move, your work, etc. Or a little token of the rewards that were reaped from their good will.

Also, pay it forward. Generosity is an energy flow that you can keep moving by something so small as picking up a strangers’ dropped papers, or something larger like donating time, goods or cash to a worthy campaign, or volunteering a load of hours on a Saturday for your friend’s event.

I’d like to thank my Mom, Mick P., John M. and Zac B. for following through with their offers of help 100% of the time, and also filling in those gaping holes that others left open. My perception that the world is a good place is stronger because of you.



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Sarah Red-Laird

Sarah Red-Laird is the founder and Executive Director of the Bee Girl organization with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees and their habitat. Her love of bees and their honey began in Southern Oregon, on a little farm at the end of a country road. There resided two hives of honey bees near her aunt’s cabin.  She was fascinated with the colonies, the beekeeper, and the honeycomb they produced. After high school, she traveled throughout the West.  Her adventurous spirit landed her jobs on fishing boats, helicopters, sea kayaks, ski mountains, and even a gold rush era saloon. She finally brought her affinity for beekeeping to fruition at the University of Montana, Missoula. She chose honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder as her Davidson Honors College research thesis, and her relationship with the bees picked up right where it left off. Sarah is the US Ambassador of the International Bee Research Association’s (IBRA) BEEWORLD project, the Kids
and Bees Director for the American Beekeeping Federation, a 2014 Oregon State Delegate to the American Beekeeping Federation, a mentor in the Oregon State Master Beekeepers Program, the Regional Representative for the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association, and the Oregon Outreach Coordinator for the Bee Friendly Farming Initiative. When she is not tirelessly working with bees, beekeepers, kids, farmers, land managers, and policy makers, Sarah heads for the hills with a camera, large backpack, fishing rod, bike or snowboard, and her best friend, Sophie the Yellow Lab.