Have you ever lost someone close to you? Have you ever needed taking care of after an injury or sickness? Have you ever been hit by a major disaster?
If you have, you know that you’ll get a lot of people saying this to you: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Which is, in essence, well-intentioned BS.
I learned this lesson a year and a half ago when the husband of a very active volunteer at my church was diagnosed with cancer. They’re an elderly couple, and the cancer crippled them to some extent.
One day in the fall I called up the wife and said, “Hey, I’d like to come over to rake leaves for you this weekend.”
I was specific and direct but not aggressive. And she said yes.
She later told me that a lot of people had been calling the house to express their sympathy. Many of them asked if they could help, which really wasn’t helpful at all at the time, because she was caught up in the middle of a very tough situation and didn’t have the time or sense to delegate tasks to people. And the few times that she did respond to that request with a specific task, suddenly the people couldn’t fit it into their schedules.
People use that phrase to express sympathy, not to actually help. And I’m sure you’re thinking, “I don’t do that! I really want to help–I just don’t know what they need!” The thing is, if you really want to help, you can figure it out. You’re an adult. Just do something. At the very least, offer something specific like I did.
This advice extends to charitable organizations. Perhaps you want to get involved in a local nonprofit. Don’t call up and say, “Hey, is there anything I can do to help?” If you do, you might get added to a list, and maybe you’ll get an e-mail sometime in the future.
Instead, call up and say (as a volunteer did for us this past year), “Hey, I noticed that your stone bench needs a power wash. I have a power washer. Can I come in this week to wash the bench?”
If you want to make a positive impact on someone or some organization in need, don’t make vague, halfhearted offers to help. Be specific and do something. That’s how you make a difference.