By William Brown
When people get to the point that they need help, usually that help is not something they’re asking for tomorrow. When people need help, they need that help today.
When people are asked for help, they don’t usually hear “help” as an exclamation. They hear the question, and by the nature of questions, the person being asked has the option to help or to withhold help.
I would suggest that we do our best to hear “help” as the exclamation it really is in order to carefully understand the tendency to withhold it.
Hear “help” as if it’s being yelled by a person in a burning building because, metaphorically speaking, that person’s world might be going to ash and they’re turning to you for a fire truck.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” I ask myself this question all the time. I repeat it over and over like it’s a mantra: What am I doing for others?
Try it. Ask yourself this question with all the sincerity in your heart. Repeat it. Repeat it once more.
In repeating this question over and over to yourself, your desire to help will indeed feel persistent and urgent. In dedicating time to considering this question, you will begin to hear “help” as the exclamation it really is and you will be more motivated to act accordingly.
Now, I’m not trying to Jedi-mind-trick you into helping others. As Dr. King suggests, the desire to help others comes naturally to us. The desire to help is among one of our best human values, so how might we better align our actions with our values?
We must take advantage of our opportunities to help. One way to get started is to know that your actions actually can help. Tom Rath, author of “Life’s Great Question,” wrote, “When people can see and measure the way their work is improving people’s lives, they do better work and enjoy their jobs more.”
The opportunities to help are as plentiful as the raindrops in a hurricane. But we must also consider what it says about us when we don’t help.
Who are we or who do we become when we hear “Help!” and turn away? How are we diminishing ourselves when we disregard a call for help?
Because if you know you can help and you don’t, what does that make you? Helpless? Nobody wants to feel helpless.
William W. Brown is founder and board chair of Legacy Early College. email@example.com.