The Humbling Advantages of Helping Others

Article By Dee DeWitt


Over the past several years, the trend in our society is for people to be separated from one another … allowing us to be alone – and lonely – in the midst of a crowd.  And in doing so to be dehumanized, or perhaps desensitized, a little bit more with each step.


Front porches and time spent with our neighbors have given way to the hectic pace of our individual lives and high walls or fences … separating neighbor from neighbor to the point where many times we don’t even know the names of our neighbors.


Similarly, cars have taken us off the streets, where we used to greet each other and stop to chat. Cubicles have taken away a bit of the humanity in working, as have even computers to some extent. Television has planted us firmly in our living rooms, instead of out with other people.


Even still, I’m not suggesting we rip out our fences, give up our cars, or toss our computers and TVs.  The positive impact they’ve had upon our standard of living is very real (except perhaps the cubicle).


What I am suggesting is that we must be careful not to focus on ourselves focused on ourselves to the exclusion of our fellow human beings … the tendency towards isolation rather than community, towards a focus on self to the exclusion of helping others.


So what to do?


Helping others has a few humbling advantages: It makes you feel better about yourself; It connects you with another person; It improves the life of another; It makes the world a better place; It leaves you grateful for the blessings God has given you.


So take just a few minutes and do a kindness for another person. It doesn’t have to be big … it can be something small. Put a smile on someone’s face.  Ask them to pay it forward.


Don’t know where to start? Here’s a totally off-the-cuff, incomplete list:


1. Smile and be friendly.  A little thing like this can put a smile and warm feeling in someone else’s heart, and make their day a little better.

2. Call a charity to volunteer.  You don’t have to hand out sandwiches in a food line today – although that is certainly a way to help … look up the number, make a call, and make an appointment to volunteer some of your time in the next month.  It can be whatever charity you like.  Volunteering is one of the most amazing things you can do.

3. Donate something you don’t use.  Or a whole box of things. Drop them off at a charity.  Others in need can put your clutter to good use.

4. Make a donation.  There are many ways to donate to charities online, or in your local community. Instead of buying yourself a new gadget or outfit, spend that money in a more positive way.

5. Redirect gifts.  Instead of having people give you birthday or Christmas gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a certain charity.

6. Comfort someone in grief.  Many times a hug, a helpful hand, a kind word, a listening ear, will go a long way when someone has lost a loved one or suffered some similar loss or tragedy.

7. Lend your ear.  Often someone who is lonely, sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated just needs someone who will listen.  Venting and talking is a huge help.

8. Help someone get active.  A person in your life who wants to get healthy might need a helping hand … offer to go walking or running together, to join a gym together. Once they get started, it can have profound effects.

9. Do a chore.  Next time you are cleaning the debris in the street in front of your house, why not clean up the debris in front of your neighbors?  It can be anything … something small or big, like cleaning up or washing a car or doing the dishes or cutting a lawn.

10. Send a nice email.  Send someone a short note telling someone how much you appreciate them, or how proud you are of them, or just saying thank you for something they did.

11. Show appreciation, publicly.  Praising someone on a blog, in front of coworkers, in front of family, or in some other public way, is a great way to make them feel better about themselves.

12. Donate food.  Clean out some of your cupboard, or buy a couple bags of groceries, and donate them to a homeless shelter, a food pantry, or your church.

13. Just be there.  When someone you know is in need, sometimes it’s just good to be there.  Sit with them. Talk. Help out if you can.

14. Create a care package.  Soup, books, magazines, tea, fruit, chocolate … anything you think the person might need or enjoy. Good not just for children away at school, but also for someone who is sick or otherwise in need of a lift.

15. Lend your voice.  Too often the powerless, the homeless, the neglected in our world need someone to speak up for them.  You don’t have to take on that cause by yourself, but join others in signing a petition, speaking up at council meetings, writing letters to the media or our elected officials, and otherwise making a need heard.

16. Love.  Simply finding ways to express your love to others, whether it be your partner, child, other family member, friend, co-worker, or a complete stranger … just do it.  A hug, a kind word, spending time, showing little kindnesses, being friendly … it all matters more than any of us can possibly know.


“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
-E.B. (Elwyn Brooks) White, Charlotte, in “Charlotte’s Web”


“There is not a man of us who does not at times need a helping hand to be stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out the helping hand to his brother.”
-Theodore Roosevelt



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Posted on 12 November, 2009 in Gratitude, Happiness, Helping Others
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