Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Why Don't I Help?"

It was a year ago when she came up to me after a presentation.  Her whole body was trembling.  I don't know her name (let's call her Sally), but our conversation has had an impact on me. Sally's natural showing of emotion about her experiences made her forever memorable.

In my speech I had talked about finding small ways to help others, and used an example of people providing advice, free airplane miles, and providing child care when my family faced a medical crisis.  My call to action was to find ways to serve others, as your efforts can make a big difference.

Herself a cancer survivor, Sally had several stories of how those in her community had assisted during the hours of need.  She began to cry.  Knowing how much those little acts of kindness meant to her family during her chemotherapy, she asked me "why don't I help others?".   She realized while listening to my talk that in the ten years of remission she could not recall herself "Paying it Forward" when others faced tough times.  Surely there were times she could have served others, and she did not know why had not done it.

There was a young mother in her neighborhood who was having health issues.  Sally realized that offering to carpool or bringing dinner on Sunday nights would make a huge difference to this family, but she had never taken action.  

I hugged her and told her is was not too late to do something, even something small could have a big impact.

But her question still rings in my mind, "Why Don't I Help?".  I have begun to share this story and asking others why they believe people do not offer assistance to those in need.  It is not always as large as things around fighting illness.  Sometimes it is driving past the broken down car on the side of the road or helping the elderly man lift his bag into the overhead compartment on a plane. 

Meeting with a friend (or the friend of a friend) who is out of work and giving advice is worth more to the job seeker than you can imagine.   But how many people ignore these kinds of emails requesting a meeting?

Referring business to someone who is launching a new company is easy, but do we do it?  For a new entrepreneur the first few clients are life changing, and we can all be referral sources for many types of businesses.

Often we want to help... we plan to take action... but then we get distracted.  The best intentions do not make things happen.  Few people have "Follow Through DNA".  

I am convinced it is more than being busy.  Some of the busiest people I know are also the most generous with their time.  Too often we do not even notice that others are in need.  Have we become so self-focused that we are simply blind to those around us?

The ever thought-provoking Seth Godin's blog post today brings up a similar theme:

Where does trust come from? (from Seth's Blog - June 23, 2012)

Hint: it never comes from the good times and from the easy projects.
We trust people because they showed up when it wasn't convenient, because they told the truth when it was easier to lie and because they kept a promise when they could have gotten away with breaking it.
Every tough time and every pressured project is another opportunity to earn the trust of someone you care about.

I disagree that trust (translate into all aspects of building relationships) does not ever come from the good times and easy projects.  He is right that the bigger efforts have more punch... but so few show up for the easy stuff... that even the simplest efforts do make a difference.

Many of us desire to be givers, but we show up and start assessing who can help us rather than the other way around.  I am trying to notice ways in my life where I can help others. The interesting part is the smallest things that take little efforts are often enough to lift someone else higher.  Something as small as a "Re-Tweet" on Twitter can make another person's whole day. 

What do you think?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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