New Years's Resolutions Our Life

Social Capital and The Helper

There is nothing more exciting than turning the page of my calendar and discovering a new set of numbers. 2014, Year of the Horse! The promise of a fresh, new start beams at me from google calendar. According to the Chinese Zodiac, this will be a significant year for all those who, like me, were born in the year of the horse.


Outside our office windows, Bob is filling the bird feeder for the first time since our return. They are getting a fresh, new start, too.

My inbox is full of links to cute blog posts about New Year’s Resolutions. My favorite is Wait But Why’s “200 Peoples New Years Resolutions” which included this gem:

I promise to stop farting in public–particularly at bars–then walking away swiftly before it is noticed, displacing the blame on strangers and creating awkward situations between them and their friends of significant others. I’ve been doing this since college. Something about just sneaking away and watching the looks on people’s faces from a distance. It gets me every time.

I was on the fence regarding the whole New Year’s Resolution thang, but after reading a few lists and conversations I decided to draft something up. One friend promised to take a specific amount of time for herself every day. My brother promises to do something fun every year. Last year he vowed to buy a banjo (and did) and this year he aspires to complete one or two finished watercolor paintings.

Here’s my list:

  • Improve my Spanish
  • Curb my Sweet Tooth
  • Master my Sling Shot
  • Focus my energies on those people and causes dearest to my heart, giving a lot to a few as opposed to a little to many

Regarding that last one, it might seem like a no-brainer but this is important because I tend to spread myself too thin. I reach out to acquaintances, get myself involved in a wide variety of commitments and later realize I don’t have as much time as I’d like for myself, Bob, my family and close friends.

Last year I took this cool personality test recommended by BJ and learned that I have a strong urge to be helpful. The Classic Enneagram test pegged me as a Reformer (Type 1) with a strong Helper wing. The description of helpers begins with “People of this personality type essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others.” As BJ and I discussed our personality profiles, our behaviors really came into focus.

I was spending a significant portion of my time ‘helping’ people solve their problems. Unsolicited. Upon some introspection I found my motivation was less about altruism than I wanted to believe. I had to admit that I was also motivated by the need to prove myself.

I recognized a well-established pattern, brought into startling detail by the challenge of building a social capital account from scratch in Kumasi. Since I’ve moved close to 50 times in my life, I have highly developed social capital building skills. And my ace in the hole is helpfulness.

Yet here I am, back in the arms of my beloved community with no need to start from scratch. For the first time in twenty years, Bob and I returned to the place we left. I’ve been humbled, grateful and astounded to find myself rich in social capital. The energy we had put into this community was still sitting in the bank, just waiting for us!

No need to cast a wide net and see what comes to me. No need to earn my place in the community by trying to help everyone I come in contact with. I’ve already done that here. This year I will stand on the foundation we built and continue giving back to the people and causes that really matter. 2014 is going to be the best year ever!

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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