Over the years of coming up, growing up, determining what I wanted to do in life, I have looked around and tried to be like the best part of people whom I see and have known. You know, that part of people that helps others in some way, that part that makes you think, “I wish I were like that.” The truth is, I love to help others. Today that isn’t as acceptable as it used to be. Now people won’t accept help unless they are offered a price to pay or the government gives it to them somehow. Help from an average person without cost or ‘strings’ attached? No thanks. They tell you to stay out of their business.
Why is it like that? Why?
People accept help from institutions then complain about the help they received from those institutions. Granted, if these institutions are going to offer, then they should be able to deliver, but on a smaller scale, you get what you pay for, or, as in this case, what you are willing to accept. Considering the last half of the last sentence, you can accept all of the offering, part of the offering or nearly none, or, none of the help. However, complaining about it depends on how badly you need the help and whether you accept the help or not. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Have you ever seen someone digging themselves into a hole and thought, “I should try to help them see the way out of that mess?” You offer to help and are told, “When I want your advice or help, I’ll ask for it.” So, at best, all you can do is sit and watch the hole get deeper, watch the top of their head sink below the rim and hope they eventually toss the shovel out and climb out of the hole. Keep waiting because it will take them longer to realize the gravity of the situation than you care to stand around and twiddle your thumbs for. Believe me, I have seen it over and over. If you have offered to help and they know you may be watching and waiting, they will avoid asking again, or even accepting, for a much longer period.
Like I said, when you offer to help, you get pushed away because they ‘know what they are doing.’ Ok. From this chair, it doesn’t look promising.
After 40 years of not seeing or hearing from my aunt on my father’s side, we made contact on Facebook. There were no problems or grudges between us, it was just the flow of life. Yes, Facebook. Facebook is good for things you may not have thought of. Anyway, we chatted and E-Mailed each other for a month or more. She told me I hadn’t changed much since she had actually seen me back when I was 12 years old back in hometown Aberdeen, WA. She told me that I have always wanted to help others and that that trait was still a strong part of me. I was flattered. Very flattered, as well as feeling justified and vindicated. Although, today, I suppress that trait mainly because so many people fear that they may appear weak if they accept help from others, or maybe they have the “Don’t tell me how to live, you know nothing about me” gene. So I have stopped offering.
Sure, “Move my sofa,” “Watch my dog,” “Where’s the gig?” are all acceptable requests which can be met with very forensic offerings, but what about people whom you know that are making wrong, or risky, life altering decisions? There’s no way to encapsulate your thoughts or suggestions in a shiny Photoshopped package before you place it in someone’s hand, so making it appealing is a daunting attempt at best. People who make such risky decisions don’t normally respond to responsible suggestions well. I know, I have tried.
So…..what does a person do who wants to help? Do you leave cute packages at the door? Do you leave a cake on the porch? The fact is, tangible objects help much less than life lessons do. Offering a small bit of advice based on an experience you have gone through, can be, and, is priceless. Read my “Hitting The Streets” series. I’ve been there. Oh yeah, I’ve been there. Advice, not things, made the path clear in the end for me. Very serendipitous advice.
But how do you make that small bit of advice look as good as a cake on the porch? Good question.
Is it the delivery? The sarcasm you add? The direction you’re facing? It’s hard to say. Maybe it is a matter of the receivers’ antenna being at just the right height. It’s hard to pin down, but when it happens, when that advice goes in, you are regarded as a genius and lives change. Why? Who knows. The fact is that most simple solutions are very easily overlooked because simple solutions are not seen as life changing bits of information, when, in fact, the simple solutions are generally the most life changing ones of all. I suppose it’s the mechanism of putting the information to use and seeing the change, not just hearing it, that seems so profound. Seeing it work with positive results is much more astounding than hearing a good tip and thinking, “That’s logical, I should try that.”
Personally, when I hear a bit of information or advice, I listen very intently. I analyze what I have heard and project that on to my own life, whether it was directed at me or not. The funny part of it is that many times I hear great advice on tv or in a movie. Yes, from the least likely source. “The Spitfire Grill” was just such a movie. I watched this movie in a church after a lunch was served for homeless people in Seattle, WA. Yes, I was homeless. The church served lunch and then showed a movie in the chapel afterward. I sat and watched this movie, my own life somewhat displayed on the screen. I had never been in prison, but the experience I was, at the time, going through was similar to a prison. Homelessness is no picnic. It’s a condition of being trapped 24 hours a day where you can’t escape from. The most important part of the movie was the closing scene.
“Nahum Goddard” (played by Will Patton) judged “Percy” (main character played by Allison Elliott) as being a distraction to everyone she met in the small town of Gilead as well as dishonest because she had just finished a prison sentence and was released to the town of Gilead to the town Sheriff’s observation. When Nahum’s wife became a distraction casualty, Nahum became very concerned and judgmental of Percy. Tragedy befalls the star, Percy. The town gathers at the church to somehow understand the situation and Nahum confesses that he judged Percy, resulting in the end tragedy. I won’t give it away.
The movie helped me to overcome my bitterness from becoming homeless and overcome my feeling that because I was homeless the world owed me something. I immediately understood that judging people was a mechanism within nearly all of us that we use daily, nearly minute to minute. It is actually a self disabling trait. It will stop you from being the help that can’t be found somewhere else as well as make you a bitter, disenfranchised and hateful person. You will be avoided by many in the process. You will be marginalized.
Anyway, the best you can really do is offer, “I can help you with that,” and hope you are heard. Many do hear you, but few will respond. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
Honestly, as I stated earlier, you have to wait for the top of their head to gradually fall below the rim of the hole and hope for the best.
So, if, and when, you find yourself in a place where you can offer help, be gracious, be unassuming and above all, just wait.
Thanks for reading,