On Helping

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

Who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers? For many of us, he showed us how to be a good neighbor and contribute in a positive way to our communities. This particular quote introduces a page with a parental guide for helping children process tragic events. Many of us carry the lessons learned into our adult lives.

The idea of looking for the helpers is one that brings comfort. All is not lost. Focus on the positive. It’s true that in nearly every case, you can find the helpers. Even if you can’t find individual helpers, you can see the work that has been done. It’s a good reminder for kids not to be overwhelmed by the darkness.

Hearing the phrase feels good even to the adults. Some of you are mentally patting yourselves on the back right now because you grew up to be one of those helpers. Go ahead, reach out and do it for real. Just, don’t pull a muscle or anything. You’re smiling; I know. You might even be feeling a little smug.

It’s part of the core of who you are. You’re a helper. You are the one people look to in times of trouble or tragedy. Your halo positively glows. This is who you wanted to grow up to be and your very identity is built around it.

How are you feeling right now? Pretty good? Warm and fuzzy and appreciated for you what you do?

Good, because I want to ask you a harder question that you might only want to answer quietly to yourself. Why is it so important to you? Because you want to help or because you want to be seen as a helper? It’s actually a pretty important distinction and it might be difficult to see the answer right away. If the true desire is to help, the focus will be on the needs of those in need of help. Your actions will be focused on bringing them comfort and aid. If you want to be seen as a helper, the focus is you. You might do things that would make you feel better if you were in their shoes. That may or may not actually be helpful, but it’ll probably make you feel pretty good. You’ll feel like you’re doing something helpful, and if you’re lucky, you are. If you aren’t so lucky, you’ll be causing more harm and you won’t be able to see it.

While you’re championing the downtrodden and polishing the next jewel for your crown, the news cameras are moving on. Those who want to be seen as helpers often boast about it. They proudly tout their empathy, when in reality, empathy is as much a vice as it is a virtue. Deeply feeling the pain of others is a vulnerability with risk of exploitation.

I’m not unique in that I’ve been on the receiving end of both helpers and those that want to be seen as such. The differences are often noticeable, but if you’re providing food for the hungry, people are fed either way. Don’t feel too bad if being seen as a helper is your motivation. There’s a greater than zero chance of a net good.

It is my sincere hope that I’ve been able to be a helper when the situation called for it. Being thanked and having that feel good is great. Often the right attention can draw out more helpers and multiply the good.

If you want to be a helper, focus on the need and not the thanks or your reward. Focus on whoever you are helping. Even if you are never recognized or thanked, I’d be willing to bet that the goodness and benefits will multiply. I know that I will never be able to thank the helpers in my life enough for what they have done. The best I can do is try to spread that to someone else. Helpers deserve the applause. Never do it for the applause.

Haiku Fri…Saturday

Two Thousand Eighteen

The year has come to an end

Good riddance I say

I suppose I could resolve to stop procrastinating, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

Honestly, I resolve to keep going. Keep moving forward. Continue getting stronger, both physically and emotionally. Keep building and nurturing those relationships that are beneficial and stop propping up the ones that are not. I learned a lot in this past year and some of those lessons were painful. I’m not going to let them go to waste.

So here’s to the new year and new adventures!


Haiku Friday: Kindness

Kill them with kindness

Heap burning coals on his head

Change your perspective

Oh yeah, we got Biblical up in here. Don’t worry, I hope it’s applicable whether you are faithful or not.

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20 NIV

I’ve noticed an interesting thing about this. Sometimes, I really can just be kind even to those that have wronged me just because being kind is its own reward. Other times, I have to think about the coals. Sure, I want to send a terrible anonymous bag of inappropriate gummy candies to someone in hopes they will catch my meaning or even just be terribly offended.  (In real life, I’ve only ever pranked people I love. You’re welcome.) Honestly, it’d be less pleasant than embarrassing candy, but we’ve got to maintain plausible deniability here. If I don’t like you, there’s a greater than zero chance that you’re a miserable human being and a lot of people hate you*. #sorrynotsorry

Here’s the funny thing though, while I’m doing the passive aggressive nice thing and internally reveling in that giant front-end loader full of fiery coals, it’s my heart changing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a vivid imagination. I can see each red hot bit searing the flesh of my enemy. I can smell it, and it is glorious. Right up until it isn’t. Right up until that moment that I can see this person is just lashing out because of their own pain and trauma and being a miserable excuse for a human being is just the manifestation of their screwed up coping mechanisms. Now that doesn’t mean I have to take any of their abuse, but I don’t have to retaliate either. I might help with the weight of the baggage, but I’m not going to allow anyone to whip me into carrying it. My act of kindness is my choice and keeps me from becoming a sad miserable human being. Soon pity replaces the coals in my technicolor fantasy. Compassion replaces anger and I again want to be nice because that’s who I am, or at least who I want to be. What’s the old saying? There but by the grace of God?

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

Compassion isn’t weakness. It’s almost like an inoculation. Once you can see that people are lashing out due to their own weakness and pain, you’re free. You don’t have to take it personally. You don’t have to own it and let it tear you down. Instead, you see it for what it is, cracks in their facade. Their own brokenness. Will it save many lives? Maybe, maybe not.

I’m a long way from perfect, but I try to be a work in progress and see that other people are too. I’m pretty confident I’ve been that miserable human being to someone at some point. I’d fix it if I could, but I’m pretty sure I can’t in every case. Best I can do is keep trying and failing and trying some more. I’m tenacious like that. Yep, I’ve hurt people. There’s a pretty good chance they had it coming, but I still want to be better than that. I’ve only got one eternal soul to answer for, and it’s got scars. The least I can do is assume the others do too.

*I genuinely like people. I’m ridiculously social. I would bet real money that someone is already planning your slow and painful demise if you happen to be on the very short list of people I find to be terrible. In fact, someone was just about to post a comment asking for that list of people so they could do something about them. I won’t share. I don’t believe that even they are beyond redemption and unworthy of compassion. Besides that, someone else likes them even less than I do. 

Haiku Friday: Saturday

A haiku delayed

Procrastination happened

Saturday poem

Consolation prize! Everyone’s a winner!

Sorry. The disorganized voices in my head refuse to stand in line and give me anything that I could possibly whip into a story even though some of you (you know who you are) keep pestering me to get my butt in gear and actually write. Sometimes the dialog is awkward and entertaining though. At least in my head, but I know you want to know what goes on in my head or else you wouldn’t be here.

<insert petty argument here>

Character 1: I love you, non-romantically, but I mean it, I love you.

Character 2: Oh yeah? Well I love you too. Potentially romantically if circumstances were drastically different.

Character 1: Um…

Character 2: Crap. That was out loud wasn’t it? Like, the whole thing.

Character 1: Nope, didn’t hear a thing.

Character 2: So… anyway, would you hand me the chisel?

CyberMonday Sale!

Oh right, I’m not selling anything here…

Um. Well this is awkward.

I’ve got it! All posts are half off! Free shipping if you act now.



This capitalism thing is hard. It’s like I need to provide something in exchange for money. Hmm.

Do you want me to tell you a story? Does it have to be true?

There was that time that a penguin stole my cousin’s Snickers while he was time traveling. He never did finish that story. Guess I’ll have to ask him about it last week. Penguins are notorious candy thieves, you know.

You didn’t? I bet you thought they just ate fish, didn’t you?

Generally speaking, you would be correct. There hasn’t been a lot of study into the reasons why, but their blood sugar levels tend to drop near temporal anomalies. It upsets some delicate balance or some such nonsense.

Just don’t give them this sort of candy.

That can upset all sorts things and cause the penguins to start gallivanting off to parts unknown.

Personally, I refer to avoid the regions where penguins tend to gather. I’m not hearty enough for the cold, you see. But should you happen upon a gallivanting penguin, pack him carefully for the return voyage.

Had to substitute a cat as I had no penguins handy. You have to work with what you’ve got.

Yes, there is a tip jar. There are also far more worthy causes than funding my occasional ramblings. Help Camp Fire Mama. She needs it more than I do.

Disclaimer: Jennifer seems to have acquired some sort of upper respiratory virus. This post brought to you by The Fever. The line for complaints has been quarantined for your protection. All employees must wash hands and all of that. 

Haiku Friday: Black Friday

Black Friday special

Conspicuous consumption

Thankful yesterday

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I smoked a turkey that turned out to be as tasty as it was attractive.

Thanksgiving 2018

I’m calling that a win. Michael made mashed potatoes that were divine. Nothing low fat there.

Thanksgiving 2018

My mother wasn’t feeling well, but we enjoyed the day regardless. My son had to rush off to his retail job to prepare for today’s madness, and I got to love on all the kiddos. I even busted a pickle thief in the act.

Thanksgiving 2018

So, now that we have all that gratitude out of the way, we can barrel right on into Christmas. If you’ve braved that madness to catch the best deals today, I really do hope you did well. I hope you found that perfect thing for everyone on your list and little something for yourself as well. I also hope Thanksgiving sticks with you for a bit too, something more than the pounds from overindulgence.

Haiku Friday: Life Moves On

Clutching a flashlight

Hiding in my blanket fort

Missing simpler times

Nothing lasts forever except the things that do. The creators may go, but their art lives on.

This week, we lost Stan Lee, Roy Clark, and William Goldman. Each dream weavers in their own right. My inner child wants to hide away with their creations, but I’m comforted in knowing that the joy they brought me can live on for many generations to come. Great power, and all that.