By Claire Louge, Executive Director

Imagine that you’re in a public restroom. After you use the facilities, you realize there is no toilet paper in your stall. You hear two people washing their hands at the sink. Do you ask them for help?

I use this scenario in my trainings about connecting families to resources. This exercise gets people thinking about how hard it can be to ask for help. Even a simple, understandable human challenge like asking someone for TP can feel awkward and vulnerable.

The coronavirus pandemic has expanded the toilet paper metaphor. TP has become a perfect symbol for resources.

Last week, my household was nearly out of toilet paper. We’d been checking our nearest grocery stores every day, but the shelves were always empty. I didn’t want to ask anyone if they could spare a roll for me – not in a time when toilet paper was scarce. But I also didn’t want to need to come up with creative alternatives to TP.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to.

I got a text from a neighbor who I had met last year at the gym. When we met, she had asked for my card after I told her what I did for a living, but we had never connected until now. Her text read:

“Claire, I was cleaning my desk and I found your card. Just wanted to say that if you need anything, do not hesitate to call or visit. These are trying times so we need to stick together. I can spare some TP, food, and whatever else you can think of.”

I took her up on the TP.

My heroic neighbor made it easy for me to ask for and receive help. Why? She was specific and proactive. She was clear in what she was offering, and she reached out to offer before she was asked.

One of the ways we can all help prevent child abuse is by assisting families in accessing what they need. In a time of crisis, like the one we are experiencing now, more families will need more help. Like my neighbor, to most effectively help families, we must be proactive and specific.

We all need help sometimes, because it turns out, much of our life is out of our control. What we can control, however, are our choices. When we choose to help families proactively and specifically, we’re protecting children.

Thanks to all the great neighbors out there.