On helping

A friend sent me a story that got me thinking. I know, sometimes I just can’t help it. Warning: this is a bit of a rant.

As the story goes, a man was in a hurry to get through a supermarket line because he was on his lunch break and didn’t have much time. People weren’t too enthusiastic about letting him go ahead, but were curious why he was buying all these toothbrushes and toothpaste. When he explained that he was taking them to a nearby shelter where people evacuated from a wildfire were staying, and how nobody ever thinks to take a toothbrush when they have to evacuate, they all stepped aside and let him through. And soon everybody was buying something for the evacuees. The store owner even donated goods for the shelter.

I’m still hearing of stories like that from the floods that hit my own state of South Carolina over a year ago, and more recently the wildfires. Many, many people stopped and helped each other, often with little regard for their own property or even safety, working to make sure everyone was safe and taken care of. It seems we’re at our best when things are at their worst.

This time of year so many people volunteer to serve meals to those who have no food. People open their doors to neighbors who are alone. Charities are bolstered by people’s generosity. Toys are donated by the truckload.

Why?

I know what you’re thinking: of course people help each other when they’re in trouble. That’s not what I’m questioning. Turn that around.

What I’d like to know is, why do we do these things just when there’s a calamity, or a certain date shows up on our calendars? We’re pretty good at stepping up when disaster strikes (at least as individuals), or the “season of giving” rolls around. But what about the rest of the time? Why can’t we have at least some degree of that caring, that what-can-I-do-to-help attitude, all the time?

We fuss and fume about the way that idiot up the road cuts their grass, but if there’s a fire, illness, or some other catastrophic event, we can’t do enough to help them. Then, when it’s all over, they’re back to being an idiot. Ok, maybe there’s good reason they shouldn’t cut their grass that way, but that doesn’t make them an idiot or not worthy of our care and consideration.

I’m not saying that we need to call out the National Guard every day, but I think there are plenty of opportunities to help each other out in smaller ways. Maybe you see someone in the supermarket checkout line who’s a little short of cash for their bread and milk. Maybe someone could use a hand carrying or picking up something. Maybe a neighbor is having car trouble and could use a ride or two. Maybe you could hold the door and smile for someone. If we’re so concerned about our neighbor’s safety when a tornado hits, shouldn’t we be just as concerned as we drive by their house where their children are playing?

Wouldn’t the world be a whole lot better, wouldn’t YOUR world be a whole lot better, if we stop calling each other names and instead said “Can I give you a hand with that?”

Rant ends.

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