Day 23 of the Be Gentle Be Love class, considers the virtue of Helpfulness.
Helpfulness is a worthy intention of being attentive and aware, and offering assistance when circumstances feel like there is no way out.
However, Helpfulness can be a tricky intention absent the dual aims of peace and gentleness. In the hands of an elitist, helpfulness is fickle medicine to give. What if the object of my Helpfulness doesn’t feel they need my help or your help? What if the patient is not really sick?
My idea or method of helpfulness may feel condescending to another. Charging in like the cavalry often is counterproductive. It may feel controlling or intrusive to another if they have not invited me to become involved. I need to be aware of the world inside the worlds I occupy and anticipate opportunities for Helpfulness.
A gentle principle to remember in offering help it is to:
It is also helpful to know your audience. My very Southern-mannered colleague was visiting in the Northeast and thought it very was helpful to open doors at his hotel for women carrying packages while saying, “let me help you with that.” Turns out a couple of women did not desire help and let him know. Loudly. So now he has decided to never open doors for women again.
Even if he is not in the Northeast.
Um, baby, meet bathwater.
Maybe it was his manner or his audible “let me help you with that.” It is possible that he ran into a couple of gals who were having a bad day. They may have even been from the South instead of the North. Or perhaps the doorman for the hotel organized a covert op against what he perceived as a threat to his job and tips. (Ok, time for me to turn off the NCIS marathon.)
Perhaps pausing for an invitation to help is wise. Or anticipating who may best benefit from my Helpfulness first. Or committing to be gently helpful without becoming invested in the outcome.
Sometimes the best help I can give is to continually remember the dignity and worth of those around me. Choosing not to participate in the daily grinding of souls may be the most radical act of social change ever. Especially if I invest in helpfulness for myself so that helpfulness and kindness flows from within me.
My best daily helpfulness says, “I accept you as you are.” My Helpfulness can support another’s progress and express faith in their journey. I love what Ije Ude says, “Because I’ve traveled this road so many times on my own, my faith that they’ll find their way through lights their path.”
Ann Voskamp phrased it this way:
Wouldn’t that be the best form of helpfulness? To only speak what is true, helpful, kind, loving, and supportive of others? (Philippians 4:8)
A few years ago, friend introduced me to planned helpfulness. She think ahead six months. When another undergoes a trauma, either good or sad, she goes to her calendar and circles the date six months in the future. Then, after six months she makes a special effort to check in with the person or family again. Usually by this time, the intensity of most people’s attention has dissipated and the day-to-day routine has resumed. Offering help and a listening ear, at this time is often extremely appreciated and welcome as sometimes people feel forgotten or more alone than usual.
Beyond hotel doors, beyond daily opportunities for Helpfulness there are efforts of greater scope. For these invitations toward Helpfulness, I ask two questions:
I love what fellow BGBL student Amanda Fall expressed:
Never think your contribution isn’t good enough, big enough, far-reaching enough, because you never know how far your ripples may reach.
Networked ripples get things done!
In the meantime, see the dude with the big, bulky Humvee stroller? Anticipate that he will need the door opened. Then run like dickens if he tries to run you over with it.