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Angela Banaszak: Helping other people brings me great joy

My New Year’s resolution for 2016 was to be a bit more assertive. My best friends and family are always telling me I simply need to learn to say no.

My husband says I’m one of the biggest doormats he has ever met. Apparently I’m not even a normal doormat – I’m the biggest, squishiest kind that says: Wipe your feet all over me.

So I was in for a challenge this year because, in the eyes of my loved ones, I needed a bit of a change.

Challenge No. 1 hit even before New Year’s Day. It was New Year’s Eve and I did have plans, but a friend asked me if I could fill in for her. It was only for about an hour. I thought about saying no, but decided it wouldn’t kill me, and I would be helping someone else, so off I went. Sigh. This was going to be a long year.

I justified my actions by saying: Hey, I’m just helping a friend. I’m a true Buffalo girl, always willing to help at any moment. Anyway, it wasn’t even New Year’s Day yet.

I was determined to stick to the plan, but when I really examined my life, I realized that when I look in the mirror, I’m happy with what I see.

I am a volunteer for many organizations in my community, including my church, the Girls Scouts, Messinger Woods and the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center.

Now believe me, being a doormat has caused me some pain over the years. The most painful episode was probably the time I was helping a friend who wanted an Easter egg hunt designed and had no room outdoors. So I created the design, made hundreds of paper flowers, put Easter baskets together for 50 children and filled hundreds of eggs. I spent at least 35 hours on this project. Mind you, this was all volunteer work.

After receiving much appreciation from the people who attended and being told what a wonderful job I did, after two years of doing this, I was informed that someone else wanted to do it and I was no longer needed. Ouch; that one still hurts.

There are also some very wonderful things about being a doormat. But I must say, I really don’t like that word!

I was a volunteer Girl Scout leader in the inner city for 16 years, which I really loved doing. It was demanding work and at times I felt as though I would never make a difference. It wasn’t until one of the girls in my troop named her first child for me that I realized I had made a difference. I was bestowed an honor that many people will never have, with a little girl named for me.

I’ve done some soul-searching over the last few weeks, and realized that the reason I don’t like to say no is that the person I’m helping may have a real need, and I can be the one to make a difference in that person’s day.

Did that mean I had to give up on my New Year’s resolution already? Probably. But perhaps I can find some firmer ground and a happy medium.

It wasn’t long before the phone rang again. A friend needed me to fill in for her at work. Although it was a very bad day for me, you guessed it, I failed the challenge. I told her I could help. Her little girl was sick. How could I say no? It just wasn’t in me.

So I have decided to modify my resolution. My doormat now says: Everyone welcome! Just wipe your feet before you come in.