Four Lessons You Can Learn from Helpful People About Being Helpful

Four Lessons You Can Learn from Helpful People About Being Helpful

There are a million ways to help people. Once you start doing it, you discover a million more.

The truth is you can help others till it hurts. The question is, should you?

I have made it my life’s mission to help others to the best of my ability.

But before I reached that point, I was hesitant to go and help. I had too many doubts and lessons to learn.

What if it becomes a habit that makes me poorer? What if I have to say no, and that is embarrassing? Why would anyone want my help?

Four valuable lessons that helpful people taught me gave me the answers I was looking for.

I am using them to level up every single day.

Their Help is Not Unconditional

We like to think that helping is innate. That we should go all out to support one another.

Consider the question you ask yourself when you want to help or are asked for support.

How to help? How much and when? And why?

We think that helping should not depend on the ability of the one receiving it. It should not rest on their capacity to repay the kindness. And helping should never be about whether they deserve it or not.

But giving help is never unconditional. If supporting someone becomes a burden, chances are we will be less helpful over time.

Being helpful should cause you no harm or regrets. It should not put you into coercive situations. It should not make your life difficult or turn you into a doormat.

Temporary discomfort is fine. But if being kind to one diminishes my ability to be helpful to another, then am I achieving what I set out to do?

Being helpful takes practice. You need to be more of a Samaritan than a saviour.

Growing up, I was a part of a large household. We had about three families employed as help. My Grandpa made a rule for their continued employment – he would never lend them money or pay advance salary.

He gave money freely to tide over health issues or pay for children’s education, never taking a pay back. These were the few exceptions he made to the rule.

The helpers’ families were forced to save and plan their finances ahead of time. Once they saw the benefits, their kids picked up the habit with ease.

My Grandpa wanted to break the debt pattern domestic helpers commonly fell into in those times. His support came with conditions, but no one complained when they saw savings pile up.

They Know When NOT to Help

Some years ago, I used to facilitate outdoor adventures for persons with disabilities (PwD). I met many PwDs who asked for more assistance than they required.

They were caught in a dependency trap.

I helped them the bare minimum and then asked them to figure out the rest.

It sounds harsh. Could I have given them what they asked for?

Of course, I did it all the time when I started.

Not extending them every possible support seemed counterintuitive at that point.

My mentor in the organisation helped me see the other side.

Would the next person the PwDs met do what I did? Perhaps not.

He showed me how, by being barely helpful, I was assisting them in the best possible way. It helped ween them off that dependency. They strove for independence instead.

As much as we feel helping is a requirement, understand that sometimes it is the exact opposite.

They Pay It Forward

Help is a gift to be passed on. Helpful people know it as a rule.

They expect nothing for their kindness, only that we show similar compassion to another in time.

I was standing in a queue at a railway ticket counter, waiting to book four tickets for the overnight train to Lukhnow, a city in Northern India.

When my turn came, I was Rs 10 short of the ticket cost. I felt ashamed not to have that sum on me. I had taken an additional Rs 100 above the estimated cost, but I still fell short.

It soon became embarrassing when the ticket clerk shouted at me to move away and not hold up the line. He turned a deaf ear to my pleading to give me just 5 minutes to get the money somehow.

I was close to tears at the insensitivity of that man. Desperate, I dug into my wallet to come up with change.

Everyone else in the booking office just stared back.

Suddenly, a young man walked alongside the window and handed the clerk a 10 rupee note. “It’s done. Please issue her the ticket”, he said and walked back to his place in the queue.

Quick and unobvious, he came to my rescue.

After I got my hands on the tickets, I stopped to thank him. I asked him how I could return the 10 Rs.

“No need”, he said firmly. “Just pay it forward when you see another in need”.

It is a gesture I have never taken lightly.

I got my chance to pay it forward when a classmate fell short of Rs 50 for her exam fee.

Money is nothing when it saves time, extends opportunities or helps people.

They Help With Ease

I have experienced the most kindness from my parents, my Grandpa, close friends and dogs.

From observing them, I saw how easy they made helping seem. And how dignified they made it for those who received help.

Without making them feel overwhelmed or obliged.

My friend cares a lot. She will show it in subtle ways. Checking in, making me my favourite masala tea, and sharing funny videos. Each gesture tells me I am in her thoughts. She does not do it often, but often enough for me to know.

Dogs know, too.

I came home tired one day. We struggled to distribute food rations to persons with disabilities near Mumbai. The Government’s aid machinery had skipped their locality entirely. They were invisible just because they could not go out and create noise.

Not a single volunteer had a dry eye from all the hardship we saw and felt.

My dog received me home with the usual excitement. She lay down on my feet when I just deflated on the couch without bothering to pet her. No begging for treats, no howling for attention.

She just let me be, understanding that having her close was help enough.

Helping others can be as simple as holding a door for someone or as extraordinary as donating a kidney. No matter how big or small the act, our thoughts count.

When we are kind and generous to each other, everyone benefits. 

I often think of all the ways I have given and received help.

Life is so much better when you cross paths with people you can learn lessons in being helpful from.

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