Help Is Meaningful No Matter How Small

hug“I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.”

At myself.

I’m a helper. Always have been. I try hard. I watch the world for opportunities to help strangers, friends and Cohere members especially. Once, I almost crashed my car pulling over to help an elderly women right her shopping cart. Turns out she did NOT want my help and swore at me but I feel happy that I tried. I’ve apparently lost my way as of late…

Last week I ran into an associate who said to me, “Hey, “Sally Sue*” is really struggling right now. Can you think of a way we could come together and help her?”

I stammered and stuttered and then muttered, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

WHAT.

THE.

ACTUAL.

FUCK?

Let’s break down the absurdity of what I said, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

  1. I don’t know her well enough. That doesn’t even make sense. I’ve been friends with Sally on Facebook for maybe a year. I’ve met her in person at least twice that I can think of. I’ve SEEN her posts about how she is struggling right now. I’m familiar enough with her work, her life and I even know her daughter’s name.
  2. to help. Help is relative. Who am I to decide what is helpful to any person at any given moment? Who am I to look at someone and decide that this thing or the other thing is better or worse for that person ESPECIALLY if I don’t even ask. If I don’t even try. Inaction is worse than trying something.
  3. in any meaningful way. I dropped everything to help dear friends last week. I cancelled things, pushed meetings and told my own daughter to wait. That felt meaningful. It felt big and it was hard. Helping isn’t always hard or time consuming or particular drastic. Does Sally need that level of help from me? A relative stranger in her life? Can I hire Sally? No. Do I personally have the bandwidth to help her job search? Probably not. There are 300 things I could do to help Sally: send her a note of encouragement, forward a job opportunity that I see, hug her, say that I know it sucks right now but it’ll get better, tell her I understand, tell her I’m thinking about her. Anything at all really. I could have spent 3 minutes doing something helpful but instead I did nothing.

In a world where it’s so easy to keep our heads down and to make excuses that we don’t have the time or the money to help, let’s SEE each other. Let’s make eye contact and say HI. The world can be terrifying. People get gunned down, children die, people are struck down by awful illnesses. That lady with the screaming kid in the grocery needs help (a smile, an encouraging nod). The homeless person on the street needs help (ask). That distressed looking server at lunch needs help (listen). Your mom. Your brother. Your best friend. Help them.

I shed a tear during my reflection on my walk this morning as I smiled and said “good mornings” to strangers on the trail then I reached into a stranger’s car to turn off their headlights. Helping matters.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Fred Rogers

*name changed

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