In the past two or three months, I've had several good friends go through really tough times. One is in the process of losing her home. Another suffered a heart attack and yet another wrecked his brand new motorcycle and mangled his left leg.
I often see people around the South Shore area who are in a pickle and want to help them in some way. But how? What can I do that will really support them and have an impact?
With the friend losing her home, it's a matter of offering assistance without injuring her self-respect. It doesn't matter how she came into the situation she's in. It is what it is.
So the best I can do is save up any boxes I come across and offer to spend time helping her pack. I can let her share her stories about her various pieces of art or knickknacks as we wrap them in paper. I find it best not to offer advice unless she asks for it.
As for the two friends who ended up in the hospital with medical issues that will require lots of rehab and have resulted in lifestyle-altering consequences, the best thing is to ask questions. carefully.
"How can I help you right now," is the first thing to do, not make a mad dash for the hospital to visit. That's usually the initial impulse we have but it's one that can actually be the worst action to take. Make a call to someone very close the person in need and ask them what is needed. The patient often doesn't know.
With my friend who had the heart attack, I stayed away but made sure his wife knew I was on call if there was anything she needed: a ride somewhere, a home-cooked meal or errands done around town. She never took me up on my offer but told me later it gave her peace of mind to know she had a resource to go to.
My friend - and chamber member - who had the motorcycle accident is a different story. He is a young marketing entrepreneur working on building his business. He has two small children and no health insurance. The surgeries and subsequent recovery have put a major dent into his business momentum, and he needs real help. The first call to action was to provide meals for the family and to try to keep the business going by following up on orders and making deliveries of printing projects and the like. Many folks did just that.
Later, several community members came together and thought up a Family Fun Fest as a fundraiser for him. It will be held June 8 at the chamber and will include a bounce tent and face painting for the kids, as well as a cornhole tournament and events for adults. There will be hot dogs, burgers, sodas and such for $1 each and a Wish-U-Well to collect any additional funds anyone wants to offer.
Helping others comes naturally to many of us and it's our normal instinct to rush in and do what we think needs to be done. But sometimes the best-intentioned reactions are not what's needed most. So when you have a friend, co-worker or customer who needs help, stop, breathe and ask the question, "How can I be of help in the best way now?"
You could make a world of difference in someone's life.