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On my local newscast last night, the anchor seemed to be delivering the news in a way designed to stress out the audience. It was one awful story after another, with no break in the tension.

Even the weatherman was all hyped up, warning us about the impending cold front. Not blizzard, mind you. Cold front. Sheesh. All I really needed to know was: sweater or coat? 

Does everything have to be turned into a crisis? “Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated,” according to cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. “They worry more about crime, even when rates are falling.”

Just once, I’d like to hear, “This just in: there are good things going on in the world and we’d like to focus on them.”

I’d love to see a news show about people extending compassion, like Karla Denny, who took over an animal shelter in Taft, Texas, with a nearly 100% kill rate and brought it down to zero percent, finding homes for 565 dogs and cats. 

Or the customers at an Alabama Waffle House who pitched in to help an employee who was working the overnight shift alone.

Then there’s the 14-year-old girl who noticed her mother struggling with blind spots while driving, so she invented a way to virtually eliminate them. 

There are always good things happening in the world, but you might not know it from what you see on the news. Give yourself a break from negativity, and focus on the good today. 

Empire model mission.  I had never seen that term before today but I immediately understood what it meant.  Mission from above. Mission from without. Mission where someone comes in and fixes you.

It’s easy to think that we know what someone else needs.  Face it – her life is a mess.  He clearly can’t feed his family.  Look at them!

But I also try to remember those times that someone was totally wrong about me.  I don’t fully understand it, but I seem to invite people to come up to me and give me unsolicited advice.  One Saturday a woman walked up to me in the art museum.  “I watched you walk in and those shoes are bad for you.  You need to get something new so you walk right.”

What I really needed was not to step into a hole the moment I got out of the car.  That would really have helped!

I’ve had women walk up to me in the grocery store, look at the contents of my cart and ask me why I’m poisoning my family with dairy.  Why do I have so much rabbit food and no meat?  And the list goes on.

I’m not sure what it is that makes people think I welcome this advice.  Because really I don’t and I immediately tense up when I see someone coming towards me with that look in her eye.

But I also imagine that this is how a mother struggling to feed her family feels when we tell her what she is doing wrong.  Maybe instead of telling, we need to listen.  Instead of making assumptions, we might learn what mistep led her to this place.  We might learn what our community needs to truly be whole.

–SueBE

 

I just finished reading Maid by Stephanie Land.  Not interested in maids?  Neither am I but I am interested in social justice, which is really what this book is about.  Land was a single mother struggling to raise her daughter and put food on the table.  Her book describes the trap of poverty and how she simply existed, fighting her way through one emergency after another.

I knew a little bit about how various forms of assistance worked — how even a small increase in income could cost someone way more in assistance.  But what I didn’t know about were the traps.  That to get X energy grant, you have to go to a class, miss work and pay for child care.  That to prove you are poor enough to get help, you have to spend several days standing in line to turn in paperwork, missing work and having to pay for child care.

But if that’s all this book was about, I wouldn’t be recommending it.  Land also writes about how assistance is as much a trap as it is a lifeline.  And that to get out of the trap, the person has to look beyond the current crisis to see the possibilities of tomorrow.  To do this, she needed hope and to believe in herself.

That’s a big one. Hope and belief that you are worth it and that you can do it.  She talked about how encouraging it was when someone whose house she cleaned knew her name and spoke to her like a person and not just a cleaning machine.

To blossom and grow she needed hope and a belief in a better tomorrow and she needed to do more than just get by.  Teach a man to fish.  Help someone build a house.  Give them a means of feeding themselves and passing that gift on to others.  Job training.  Education.  Habitat for Humanity.  Heifer Project.  The Presbyterian Giving Catalogue.  They are all ways to spread His Light, reach out and help someone bloom.

–SueBE

 

CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

Oh, hi there. You caught me doing my index-finger isometrics so they’re strong enough to open my closet door. 🤞 You see, my house was built in the 1960s (so was I, for that matter), and it seems to have been designed by a sadist. (The house, that is. Not me.)

This closet door is virtually impossible to open. It’s as if they took a thimble from someone’s sewing kit, jammed it into the door and called it a day. I’d like to meet the sadist who designed it so I can accidentally poke him in the eye with that finger. It’s nice and strong now. I jest of course! I’d probably just smack him with a hanger. Oops! Jesting again. But you can sense my very real frustration.

There are so many things around my house that need fixing, and not a penny in the budget with which to hire a contractor. The microwave broke last week. The fence needs repair, there are leaks from the ceiling, and the floors need to be re-finished. 

Instead of just sending missionaries overseas to convert people, we should also have a team right here at home with a program to “un-vert” people. To make it very clear, I’m not trying to convert you. I’m trying to convince you that people of faith have no ulterior motive. I’m just here to make your life easier. Can’t open that closet door due to its Lilliputian thimble-like handle? Let me fix it for you. People would join in droves!

Such a program doesn’t exist yet, but until it does, the best way to present your beliefs in a positive light is to follow the golden rule. Sure, stay on message, but be a person about it. You can’t save a soul with a bonk on the head, and, try as you might, some doors will always remain closed.

A Texas Walmart banned a woman who ate half of a cake as she shopped, then demanded half off the price of the cake. Stories like this one make me think that the moral compass of the nation is out of whack, but is it really?

Maybe it’s just a matter of shifting your gaze to find positive things going on in the world.

DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Like the community that rallied behind California bakery owner, John Chhan, buying out all of his baked goods quickly every single day. Customers lined up as early as 4:30 AM, buying donuts in bulk to clear out the inventory. Why? Once all the donuts were sold out, he could close the shop and be with his wife, who was recovering from a brain aneurysm.“We are so thankful,” Chhan said.

Image via MCACC and Callie Mac/Facebook

Or the volunteers coming together to comfort shelter dogs during Fourth of July fireworks. Operation “Calm the Canines” is underway, and every dog in the shelter will have his or her own personal paw-holder when the noisy celebrations begin. It’s a twist on the therapy dog idea: a therapy person. A thera-person, if you will!

Callie Mac of the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control (MCACC), the organizer of this event said, “Huge thank you to everyone who showed up to help our shelter dogs! It takes a village! ❤”

There’s plenty of positive energy still left in the world. It just takes a shift in focus and a little bit of hope.

After a heart attack years ago, John Watson had trouble sleeping and fell into a deep depression. His therapist suggested that he listen to relaxing music to help him fall asleep, but obnoxious commercials got in the way.

“Even on the radio you would be listening to relaxing music, trying to get to sleep and, all of a sudden, an advert would come on, yelling at you to buy something,” Watson said. He decided to start his own radio station with ad-free ambient music, Sleep Radio.

Could it be that issues that have plagued us for years are projects in disguise? Maybe the wisdom we’ve gained by going through a challenge can help someone else.

This reminds me of that moment years ago when I was waiting in a doctor’s office to discuss how to correct my macular hole, and a woman sat down in the chair next to me. “I had the surgery,” she told me. “I still can’t see. The doctor said it’s not healing well.” Oddly enough, this woman looked just like me, only twenty years older: red hair, glasses, sensible shoes. “Sorry to hear that,” I said to her, thinking, Well, I’m in my thirties, so I’ll probably heal faster. 

As it turns out, I had the same unfortunate result. I thought, where is the information online for patients considering this procedure? Does anyone get a positive result? 

I realized I was in a unique position and could tell potential patients what to expect, so I started an online support group called “Recuperade.” Since the procedure made my vision worse, I always suggest getting a second opinion, even a third one. The road may be rough while you’re on it, but if you make a map for others, something good might come of it after all.

The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

This morning, a young mother posted a note of thanks on a community forum. Grocery shopping had been going awfully – something about having to have 3 under-6 girls who were tired and cranky along for the trip.  She was almost in tears when up walked another mom who loaded this lady’s groceries in the car and had her son take the cart back to the corral. This was the bit of help she needed to shift her day from dreadful to blessed.

Seeing and acting.  We need to do both.  When we do, even in a case as minor as helping a mom at the grocery store, we have a huge impact.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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