I was a young girl, maybe 10 years old, on my way back from the supermarket when it happened. I lost my grip on the heavy bags I was carrying and they fell to the floor, food tumbling all around me. As I scrambled to pick things up, my heart was pounding. I wasn’t aggravated or annoyed. I wasn’t even concerned that food had spilled. But I was terrified that someone would offer me help!

I quickly, desperately gathered up all the food, hazarding a quick glance around in the hopes that no one had noticed this little drama. After arranging my bags as best I could, I continued on my way, breathing a sigh of relief that no one had tried to help me.My heart was pounding

Years passed, and not too much about me had changed. That self-sufficient child with the grocery bags turned into a self-conscious, stubbornly independent teenager. I always counted out the change and held it in my hand while waiting for the bus, so I would be ready when the time came to pay. G‑d forbid anyone should see me fumbling for change! I’d walk around lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood for an hour rather than ask directions.

And, as a young woman at my grandmother’s side after she’d just lost her daughter—my aunt—I insisted I was doing just fine. I was unable to open up to the social worker who came to speak with us. It was my first encounter with grief, and I suppressed the heavy, raw ache in my throat, plastered on a big, if slightly trembling, smile and breathed a sigh of relief when she moved on.

It wasn’t easy feeling like I had to be Ms. Independent all the time, but I always took it for granted that this was just a part of my personality. It didn’t seem like something I could, or should, try to change.

Things got a lot more complicated after I got married and started having kids. With more people in the equation, there were all kinds of things to consider if I was to maintain my “no-help” policy. Oh, I still tried my best. A sleeping toddler, a baby and four bags needed to get up to my fourth-floor walk-up? No problem, I’ll just wait half-an-hour for my husband, or make five trips up and down, but I would never ask a neighbor for help!

Picture me on an airplane at boarding time: four kids, three carry-ons and a husband stuck several rows behind me trying to figure out just which seats, exactly, are ours.

And so on it went, until one day a few years ago when things started to change. The ingredients? A trip to the emergency clinic for my 2-year-old after an allergic reaction, followed by a sleepless night, and my sudden realization the next day that we’d be late to pick up one of the other kids from school.

My husband was sleeping after being at the clinic all night, and I was busy taking care of the baby. What could I do? I was forced to call another mother and ask her to get my son at the same time she picked up her own boy. Silly as it sounds, I was mortified by the realization that she knew I didn’t have it all together, all the time. Had she detected the hint of desperation in my voice under the smooth, chipper exterior I’d tried so hard to maintain?

But something strange happened when I went to pick up my son from her house. I felt a sudden, unexpected closeness with this other mom, as if a barrier between us had been removed. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed that she felt it, too. And so, I began to wonder: Could it be that asking for help, making myself vulnerable and small, is actually what G‑d wants me to do?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a mistake I’d been making because I finally understood: When I receive something from another person, I’ve truly given them something in return—the ability to give. And out of that exchange, connection is born. And connection—to each other and to G‑d—is one of the most meaningful experiences we can have.It hit me ... I’d been cheating!

Why does the give-and-take exchange create such a powerful connection between people? Perhaps it’s because by giving, we are actually emulating G‑d Himself. One of the reasons He created the world, the Torah teaches, was to give to us. And so when we do chesed, the kindness of giving to others, we are tapping into the reason for existence itself.

When I put these pieces together, it hit me that I’d been cheating—not only myself, but everyone else in my life. This had to change! And so, I slowly began to open up and say “yes” to all kinds of offers I would previously have refused.

To be honest, I still struggle with this. That stubborn, ego-driven voice inside me would like to pretend that it doesn’t need anyone. But that initial realization so many months ago sparked a slow, meaningful change in my life, enriching my relationships with a new energy. So, lately, when I find myself in need, I try to do everyone a favor and ask for help.