Saturday, October 02, 2004

Can I help?

Hmm, well, it is two days past the end of the month and no stray thoughts. I've had them, but I've been in too much of a mad scramble to write any down. Instead, I'm going to talk about fate, cats and doing the right thing.

I like to help people. It's part of my nature and always has been. I'm the type that sometimes comes across as nosy because when you express frustration, I jump right in with an offer to help. There are a lot of things and people in need in our world, and just as many people who ignore those needs. I may ignore the global, turn aside requests for money or even walk away from a homeless person a time or two because I can't trust them to use my help appropriately. For example, I very rarely give cash to street people. Food, drink (of the coffee type) maybe, but cash no. My reasoning is simple: How do I know they won't use my cash to make their situation worse?

However, all those confusions slip away when the simple question is: "Do you need some help?" This question frees me because what I can offer is my knowledge, my time, my personal effort. If I know something that might help you, I'm willing. This mostly happens with computers and the like, but also works when someone is lost in an area I know, when someone just needs to vent, or when I can help with my writing experience.

All people have something they can share if they'd like, moving us back in some ways to a bartering society but where the currency we barter with is help. Given a no strings situation, would you choose to offer some time to help another person? The concept of pay it forward has been around a lot longer than the movie sharing the same name, but it is one I truly believe in. It's the reason I moderate at, and why I make a point of answering questions when I have some bit of knowledge to share.

Now, this open willingness has made me a victim before where I was sought out before people would try to do things on their own or they came back every time rather than actually learning how to do things. I've had to develop techniques where I encourage knowledge transfer rather than information, the difference being summed up in the old parable, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime." Still, for the good we can each do, it seems a small enough risk.

Sometimes the help one person can give is a small thing with little impact and sometimes it's a huge thing, but the size doesn't matter. Whether it's one child sharing pinata candy with another who wasn't quick enough, a grown-up holding the hand of someone who just experienced a major loss, or someone listening to the frustration in another's voice long enough to stop and show how to display that image, each moment makes the world as a whole better.

So, what do you think? Is the life of a Good Samaritan limited to people like Mother Teresa or can all of us make a difference, make one other life a little brighter?

I guess Meep's story (fate and cats) will have to wait for another time. I found a stray thought to follow.


Anonymous said...

Of course, we all have the power to make the lives of those around us a little bit better...actually, we have the power to make their lives a LOT better, or a LOT worse. A cheerful spirit and a helping hand go a very long way towards making the world a better place. And so, my friend, I thank you for your cheer and help; it does not go unnoticed, or unappreciated :)


Margaret said...

A lot worse? *scared look* But of course you're right. I can tell you having people around who are positive and cheerful (not in a drugged out way ;)) has a very different impact than people who are always criticizing the world and looking at the worst in everythig.

neopolitan333 said...
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Anonymous said...

Of course we can all make a difference. Like Valerie said--we can make our difference for better or worse. And we can do it without even realizing what we've done.

The downside of not realizing the good we might do is to discount its importance and cease doing it, because we come to believe it, and we, don't matter. Several times in the last couple years I've been caught short with comments that some little thing I said or did made a huge difference for someone else. In a couple of those instances, I remembered how I almost hadn't done or said that thing because I didn't think it would matter or maybe somebody wouldn't take it in the spirit it was intended. It's sometimes scary to think of the tenuous threads that comprise the webs of our lives.


Margaret said...

Very true, Jean. People rarely recognize the impact they have and the positive impact even less so than the negative. I went back to visit my high school during Thanksgiving break my freshman year of college (I left for college after 10th grade). I expected to be lost among strangers, only remembered possibly by my teachers. Instead, people greeted me in the halls from all walks of life, the "in" and "out" crowds, from seniors to sophomores. While I'd been there, I'd helped when I saw the need. I didn't necessarily remember all of them, but they knew me. It was eerie actually, but still a sign of how much good we can do without making a grand effort or even noticing the efforts we make :).