It's easy to feel embarrassed when there are things we can't do - so we struggle on manfully! But actually, allowing others to help can be a gift to them. I've been touched by the tales of my dharma sister Sahishnu, working with the poorest of the poor in India - how grateful and joyful her sangha are to be in a position to offer her aid in any way - including carrying her when her health has meant she is infirm.
This is an interesting take on the subject from Toni Bernhard:
How many times have you said to a friend or relative in need, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help," and when you didn't hear back, fail to follow-up? I've lost count of the number of times I did just that—fail to follow-up when I didn't hear back from someone in need, even though I would have been happy to help in any way I could.
Yet, despite this pattern in my own behavior, when I became chronically ill and didn't get back to people who offered to help, I decided that, because they failed to follow-up, their offers weren't sincere.
I learned otherwise quite by chance. A friend came to visit and showed me an exquisite handmade dress she'd just bought for her granddaughter at a local boutique. When I told her how much I loved it, she asked if I'd like to get one for my granddaughter. I said "sure," and before I could get "but I'm not able to go shopping" out of my mouth, she was out the door.
She returned shortly with the dress in two sizes for me to choose from. I picked one, wrote her a check and, when she left to go home, she took the one I didn't want back to the boutique. That made three trips for her to the same store that day.
When I got sick, was she one of the people who had said, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help"? Yes. But I'd never asked her to do anything. On that day, however, I saw in her face that going to get that dress was a gift from me to her. She can't restore my health, but she can buy a dress for me to give to my granddaughter, and doing it made her feel terrific.
Here's what I've learned about people who offer to help:
1. They're sincere in their offer: they mean it.
2. The responsibility falls on me, not on them, to follow-up.
3. The best way to take them up on their offer is to give them a specific task to do.