How many times have you seen a close friend or family member in need and offered to help? Most of us are more than willing to offer assistance to those we love. When situations like this arise, there are often two types of people. The first type of person offers to help with a phone call or email by saying, “Please let me know if you need anything at all!” The second type of person actually does something for their friend in need.
I am not arguing that there is a right or a wrong way to help a friend, but I am convinced that the truly compassionate and best kinds of friends are those that not only offer to help, but actually do something! Both of my parents have had cancer and I have seen an outpouring of love that has come from friends, loved ones, and even strangers in support for my family. However, my heart has never been more touched than it has by those people, who simply dropped off dinner for our family, gave a basket of little gifts to my mother, quilted a blanket for my father's hospital stay, or stopped by just to cheer me up. The list could go on and on!
There is a nonprofit organization called Action for Happiness. They write, “Connecting with people is vital for happiness and supporting others is critical for creating happy communities, yet when we are down or experiencing a rough patch in life (which we all do from time to time), it is easy to feel alone. And it can be hard to ask for support and help even from people we know well.” They go on to offer some suggestions for helping those you care about.
• Tune into how others are feeling. Try and pick up on your friend's feelings. If you think of a way to help, but aren't sure how it will be received, ask the person! Tell them you want to do such and such to help, and just want to make sure that is OK. Follow up with action!
• Simply be there for your friend. Sometimes the very best thing you can do is lend an hour to listen to your friend. Let them tell you how they are feeling.
• Take the pressure off. Find a simple way to relieve some of the pressure from your friend's life. If they are struggling and have kids, pick the kids up and take them out to dinner and a movie so that your friend can have personal time to heal.
• Keep in touch. Sometimes it is easy to offer help and wait for a friend to contact you. Reverse this by texting or calling your friend every couple days just to check in for a quick five-minute conversation.
Those in need rarely ask for help. Instead of offering to help a friend in need — do something to help your friend in need. One of the greatest experiences of humanity is helping those we care about. Your gesture of help doesn't have to be expensive or grandiose. Sometimes the very smallest things are those that touch our hearts the most. I urge my fellow community members to simply do something!
Kyle Hawkey is an associate professor at Arizona Western College and a program coordinator, senior for the University of Arizona. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.