Seeking and Giving Help — 9/11 or Today

It may not be the time of year we normally think about 9/11—not that we will ever forget—but here’s a story from that awful day I will always remember. Share if you’d like!

John G. Miller, author of these books

Asking a Lousy Question

Hours after the terrorist attacks, I was asking the whiny question, “Why do I have to do everything myself?” Looking back, I was mindlessly rearranging my garage, doing my best to not feel the pain.

I was also avoiding what sat on the back of my pickup truck: a new natural gas-powered furnace/heater for our above-ground pool—which I knew I could never lift off alone. My plan was to levitate it to the ground with sheer mind control.

Not feeling very good about anything, I was suddenly interrupted by a pleasant, “Afternoon, Sir. How ‘ya doing?”

Some Moments You Never Forget

With my back to the intruder, I turned just enough to see two men in crisp, clean uniforms approaching the garage door.

Oh, man, that’s the last thing I need! I thought. I knew exactly who they were.

I muttered “Hello” and kept pushing garage contents around hoping these people would disappear. I looked again. Darn, still there. Schwan’s guys. Good guys. Providers of food. Great food. I just wasn’t in the mood to buy stuff. What I really needed was a large crane or a small army to help me remove the chunk of iron and steel from my vehicle.

Knowing they wouldn’t leave until they’d been of service, I straightened and turned to shoo them away …

Then I noticed something about the younger fella: 21″ biceps! And the other gentleman had clearly spent half of his life in the gym. Before I could say anything, the older guy said, “Need some help gettin’ that off your truck, Sir?”

My Small Army Had Arrived

“Ah, well, sure!” I responded. “Stand back, Sir, we’ll handle it!” one said. With veins bursting and muscles bulging—but no grunting—they grabbed, hoisted, and carried the furnace around the house and into my backyard faster than I could say Buy More Schwan’s!

I thanked them six times. They assured me it was no big deal. Then, an uncomfortable quiet enveloped us as we all knew where we were going next.

It was time for me to spend some money.

I spoke first: “So, what do you have on your truck today?” With a twinkle in his eye, Dennis Naibauer, the local field trainer for Schwan’s Sales Enterprises, proclaimed, “We have filet mignon, Sir—and lots of it!”

$127 later, I shook hands with Jason Tator, a former wrestler, and his mentor, Dennis. On a miserable day for our world—and for each of us—they left me standing in the warm summer sunshine with a smile on my face.

Seeing Our Job As Helping People

A week later, I spoke to the Schwan’s sales manager, Doug Rosenthal, who shared, “John, I’m telling our route people we’re all hurting, we’re all in pain, but we still have a job to do. And that job adds value to the lives of others. In our own small way, we can help people even at a time like this.”

Especially at a time like September 11, 2001.

A part of practicing personal accountability is asking for help. Reaching out is a good thing. It’s a sign of strength. Rather than lamenting, “Why do I have to do everything myself?” and going down that victim path, it’s healthy to seek help from others. There are lots of folks who want to go beyond their “job description,” as Dennis and Jason did that painful day. It’s great to find people like that, isn’t it? But …

It’s even better to be a person like that. No matter our job, we can help people.

So let’s remember, we’re here for each other. We really don’t need to do everything all by ourselves.

In what way do you add value beyond your “job description”? Do you reach out for help often enough? Share!


16 Responses

  1. Timing is Everything!
    Your message about asking for help came in just the right time. On a personal matter, I am having difficulty with my hip. I would rather struggle in pain walking things down to the mail room rather than asking for help. My co-worker saw me struggling and offered to help me. In my head I’m thinking . . . Does this make me weak for accepting her help? . . . It was tough to accept her help BUT I would have offered to do it for her as well if the tables were turned. I am learning at a late stage in my life that accepting help does not make you weak – it makes you stronger for realizing that – “news flash” – we can’t do it all on our own!

  2. John,

    Great perspective as usual. At Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Company, one of our five stated values is: “Do not be afraid to ask for help” – so I greatly appreciate your emphasis on this important concept. Much harder to learn, grow and succeed if people aren’t encouraged to seek and provide help. It supports progress and confirms teamwork.

    Thank you!

    Best regards,


  3. And there you are John….sharing a great story just when folks might need it most!! As a federal employee affected by the non-pay furlough status, my team is going through many emotions. Why is it our department? How can they expect us to come to work and not get paid? How am I going to pay my bills? Most of those answers I dont have for them either. I am briefing how we can help each other right now by sharing our talents. It is these u fortunate times when the washer goes out, your battery is dead, your thermostat went out!! But many of us have had to fix those things ourselves! So I am asking them to share talents., if you have experience with plumbing, help someone else that cant afford a plunber right now. Trade babysitting! If you have fixed the timer on your dryer, shate that talent with someone else that might need appliance repair but cant afford it right now! I have researched places for folks to go get food if needed and my brother has offered his services for appliance repair to do it yoursrlf, over the phone as he lives in another state. These are certainly hard times for our Country and we must come together in our workforce, our community and our Nation. Thank you John. I am still learning from you! God Bless

  4. I literally just experienced this with a co worker. I was struggling with several cases and knew this co worker had a lot more professional experience than I did. I shared my concern and wow just like that my answer was there. thanks for article it was right on time we truly need each other

  5. I would like to share a story my daughter shared with me about an experience she had at work.
    She came home one night from work, she works for a national car rental company, and was telling me about how a veteran came to her counter to rent a car along with his service dog. She went thru his contract with him and was directing him to where the car would be located when she noticed his apprehension and how his dog moved even closer to him. In the meantime the line had gotten long and she asked those standing in that line if they’d be okay with her helping the veteran find his car and she would be right back, they all said yes because the young man had been on their same flight. He thanked her for taking her out to his car and she told him “No, thank you for your service” and went back inside to help the remaining people in line and as she helped each person they all said they were impressed by what she had done. She explained she had been brought up in a veteran oriented family because her grandfather was a veteran, her uncle was killed in Vietnam and her dad was in the service. Being veteran oriented had been instilled in her at a young age and an exceptional work ethic went right along with it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say that’s not my job she always attempts to go above and beyond.

  6. John, I’ve been traveling this week so could not respond until now. And yes, this will be my favorite story this year! Having worked with Schwan’s for close to 40 years, I get to witness the many acts of kindness our salespeople are known for and is a source of pride for all of our employees. One of our five core values is helping one another; it was certainly apparent on this day. As for the lesson of “asking,” my wife continues to remind me that I need to do more of this. Thanks for sharing and reinforcing both lessons with me and others.

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