Yesterday we met our new home teachers. After they shared their message, and before they asked to leave us with a prayer, they asked the common question, “Is there anything you need that we can help you with?” We answered “No.” We then said a prayer together and they left.
When they asked that question my mind began to list all the things that we need or want- a grown up bed for our kid, someone to watch our kid this Thursday while I’m at the dentist, to figure out what is going on with my husband’s ear, help figuring out just exactly what sorts of things I should buy for food storage, advice on hiring a landscaper or doing the backyard ourselves, advice on refinancing our home, etc. I wonder what would have transpired if I had shared any of those things with our home teachers. Obviously it would have been a bit overwhelming for a first visit, but I’m sure they’ll ask the question again the next time they come.
Consider hypothetically, from among the things I listed, landscaping* (possibly a bad example since it falls more in the want category than the need category). We don’t want to do anything complicated- a paver path, a small retaining wall, and some grass- things we could do ourselves if we had access to a truck, a level, a wheelbarrow, a trowel and probably a few other things. If one of our home teachers had equipment and tools we could borrow it would be a huge help to us. If they offered to come help for an hour or so one weekend, that would be going above and beyond the call of duty. If they could point us to someone trustworthy that we could hire (a professional, a teenage son, etc.) that would be fantastic too. The part where I fall down is coming up with a way to make those ways to help us known without coming across as if we expect them to do it for us free of charge. It is a tricky line to walk, especially given the fact that we’re just getting acquainted. The whole situation would be even more tricky if one of our home teachers worked as a professional landscaper.
It would be very easy to just say, “Home teachers should be solicited for spiritual service only.” All of us know that such a statement isn’t really true. Recent articles in the Ensign have told of exemplary home teachers who provided extra services to single mothers and their children, even doing some routine house and car maintenance. Also we have the ultimate goal of living the law of consecration, where letting someone borrow your truck for a day wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary at all. In fact it seems more likely that we’d take a barn-raising approach to most any kind of problem or need.
I heartily dislike the idea of taking unfair advantage of friendly offers for help, and all of us have seen people abuse the Elders Quorum Moving Company, or the Relief Society Take-Out Dinner Service. On the other hand I have felt the desire for people I’ve been called to serve to open up and share their needs, giving me the opportunity to help them if I can. I especially hope for instances where I can share my unique skills or knowledge, hoping to be part of a miracle in someone’s life. On the other other hand I’ve never been in a position where people have expected or hoped for me to do for them, for free, the exact thing that I do for a living.
The only general guidelines I’ve decided on is this- if it is a want rather than a need or if you can afford to pay/hire someone to do it then you shouldn’t ask for help from home teachers or other members of the ward.
* As a disclaimer, since this is strictly a want and since we can afford to hire someone we are not going to even bring it up to our home teachers.