Thanks to Jane’s book, Thrift Store Saints, I think I understand a bit more about how to help people—truly help them. Here are some thoughts—try them on for size.
If you want to help me, let me name my needs. You may think you know what I need, but my deepest or most immediate need may not be so obvious. Show the courtesy of asking me what I need.
If you want to help me, be practical. You may want to overhaul some aspect of my life, looking at the big picture and helping me get organized. There might be an appropriate time for that. But right now, this very day, what help do I need? Are my pantry shelves empty? Am I without transportation? Am I without a place to sleep? Do I need to see a doctor? Do I need help paying the heating bill?
If you want to help me, don’t assume that I am the problem. Yes, I’ve probably made some decisions that had less-than-optimal outcomes. But much of what happens in life, just happens. And sometimes I suffer because of the decisions and policies that are under others’ control.
If you want to help me, don’t treat me like a victim. Help me make choices and be proactive. Don’t do things for me I should be doing myself. I need you to support me, not step in and do my work.
If you want to help me, please be present. Bring yourself into this space with me, and have the courage and grace to listen, to give a hug, to sit in silence with me—or to stand in line with me, help me fill out complex forms, and simply be there when I need to feel that I am not alone.
Okay, now—what wisdoms would you add to these?