I have heard it said that there are truly no unselfish acts, and maybe it’s true. Why would someone help another person without some ulterior motive? Be it guilt, compassion, fear, sympathy–there is something driving you to help another soul.
Helping others is a funny thing. In my line of work, I help people all day long. It does appear, at times to the patient, that the “help” they are receiving is actually fancy torture techniques. But no, we do the same thing to everybody and are doing all that we can to fix them.
How do you know if you are truly helping someone? Are you doing/giving/saying something that helps you more than it helps the other person? What if what you decide to do seems helpful, but really is not. How do you know…?
In October, a friend sent me a video over Facebook and she wrote: “This reminds me of you”. Now, I was a little hesitant to watch said video for fear it would be about an overweight, super bossy, critical, middle-aged woman with a lot of cats who watches way too much tv. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be this:
As I watched this, two feelings came over me. First, I was very touched that someone saw me as this type of person. Second, this was something I wanted to do as an adventure. So, on November 1, 2016, I embarked on item number 5 on my list: How Can I Help month.
How Can I Help month started pretty simply–I just posted on Facebook that if anyone needed help with something to let me know. My housekeeper commented jokingly that I could come over and help clean her house. A few more people thought it was a cute idea. But, I didn’t get any requests for help. I put some parameters on myself for the helping–I was only going to do things I felt were worthy of my time and I was going to “be helpful” using the skills that I had and not just spend money in an effort to be helpful (ie, giving spare change to bums standing at the intersection holding a sign).
Here is the list of helpful things that I did:
- I held a clothing drive for the Salaam Cultural Museum a collected 756 pounds of clothing and other goods to help their work with Syrian refugees in Greece.
- I offered free babysitting at my house on a Saturday night for anyone who wanted to drop their kids off and go out for a night on the town.
- I gave free makeup lessons to anyone who wanted them–to either get a new look or learn how to apply makeup in the first place.
- I started Helpful Cupcake Day (which will now and forever will be November 16!) and gave away a dozen cupcakes to three luck commenters on my FB post.
- I delivered a “Positivity Basket” to a friend recovering from surgery (I would have done that anyway, but it happened to be in November, so I’m including it)
- I collected blank, leftover Christmas cards from people to send to Servicemen and Servicewomen stationed overseas.
- I recruited two friends to help make 40 hygiene backpacks for Olympia homeless youth.
Those are just the big things I set out to do.There were lots of other little things that I did to be helpful–finding someone’s glasses on the floor at SeaTac airport, making cupcakes for a foster kid’s Christmas party–lots of stuff like that. Since it was the holiday season, it was quite easy to be in a “helpful” mood, and I ended up extending How Can I Help month through December.
But… Being helpful was not as easy as I thought it was going to be.
Most people do not or will not ask for help. I should have thought of this because I am someone who will not ask for help. I can always figure out a way to accomplish something, or I will pay someone to do it for me. A perfect example of this was during the month, a friend texted me and asked if she could help me with something. When I asked what she had in mind, she just said that since I was helping everyone else, could she help me? I was confused at first–and couldn’t think of anything I needed–but then realized that maybe my actions were starting to make people more aware. I’ve never considered myself all that inspiring of an individual, but if what I was doing could make people stop and think about what is going around them, I was happy about that.
I also did not get any takers for some of the items I offered help on, mainly the free babysitting. I am not married and do not have any children, so a lot of people assume that I don’t like kids or that I don’t know how to handle them. I don’t like bratty, wild kids. But in general, I do like kids. I am also the oldest of four children and have been changing diapers since I was 8 years old. I have taken care of my twin nieces, at the same time, since they were infants, and then added their little brother three years later. I can handle kids, but no one showed up to my house that Saturday night. One friend did comment that she didn’t want to burden me with her daughter because she can be difficult. And I get that. I think that is a big part of accepting help from someone–you don’t want to make them regret that they offered in the first place. But I knew what I was getting into, screaming kids and all…