I’ve been thinking lately about being helpful.
I like to think I’m a mostly helpful person. I have limitations, like any normal person. And sometimes, when I’m not feeling that well, I have some extra limitations, but generally I like to think I’m pretty helpful.
That’s not to say I help everyone.
I don’t help everyone.
Some people I don’t help because they’re too hard for me to help. I’m only good at certain things. I’m good at giving rides or listening or sitting in hospital rooms. I’m good at bringing food and dropping off magazines. And I’m good at helping with legal matters, which is often helpful.
But I can’t really help people who need much more than that.
And I can’t really help people who need too much or ask too much or turn help around into an annoyance. You know, the person you bring groceries to and then they complain about what you brought?
I assume we all have one or two of those folks in our world.
There are other people I don’t help because I know they already have their helpers in place. So I take my help elsewhere…to people I think have less of an accessible support network available to them.
On a scale of one to ten, I would say I average out at a 6 or so on the helpfulness scale.
I could definitely be more helpful if I didn’t have to work so much, but, well, you know how that goes.
What trips me up is when other people aren’t helpful. I never know what to do.
This past week, I pondered three particularly unhelpful situations and my role in managing those situations.
In the first situation, someone who I am sure thinks of himself or herself as helpful, did something that happened to be really unhelpful for me. This person, who I believe is a good person generally, sent me information regarding a criticism of my work on social media.
Now, I should say, I have a pretty strict rule about haters: I don’t engage.
I learned when I first became syndicated that there are lots of haters out there. And they seem to have more time on their hands than non-haters. And they want to engage.
But engaging with a hater just means you’re taking time away from everything that enables you to be creative. It’s bad energy.
So I just don’t do haters. I almost never respond to them and I almost always block them immediately. Perhaps they go on hating for hours or days or months. I don’t know and I don’t need to care.
More importantly, I’m not built in a way that I can engage in negativity and then move forward in life positively.
Negativity affects me. And not in a positive way. Negativity just takes from me. It doesn’t give anything of value to me.
So, when the person I know to be a generally good person sent me a link to social media hate directed against me, I had a problem. I instantly felt like I had to at least check out the hate to see if it was something to be dealt with. Because once in a while a hater has a point.
In this case, the hate was low level hate. It wasn’t anything substantial enough to spend too much time thinking about, much less worrying about.
But I wondered why someone good would have taken time to send me something negative. I wondered if it was on purpose, or whether they were trying to rile me up or get my attention.
Maybe they were just bored. Or maybe they wanted to interact.
I only know that the episode taught me I need to be clear with the people in my world.
I don’t do negativity.
I don’t want to know who hates me and I don’t want to spend time thinking about anyone I might hate. It’s distracting and upsetting and contrary to the constant goal of moving forward.
And that brings us to the second situation.
Later in the week, a lovely group of kindred spirits got together to talk and bond and laugh while eating and drinking. As always, we welcomed new potentially kindred spirits to our group with open arms and the hopeful curiosity that comes from hearing certain stories from certain group members too many times already.
One new member was particularly dynamic, engaged and, for lack of a better word, not shy. This new member took the initiative to meet everyone and talk about topics that were truly interesting. I was pleased to see someone new engaging so energetically and passionately.
The next day, that new member dismissed us all rather rudely on social media. The new member dismissed us as being many bad things, from closed-minded and intellectually lazy to just plain stupid.
I would have been shocked had I not been so tired from a week of snow blizzard challenges.
In my too-tired-to-give-a-shit state, I deleted all of the social media remarks this person had made and sent a sweet email saying “sorry we didn’t hit it off and have a nice life.”
Even now, as I write this, I am trying not to give this person even one extra second of my time or attention. But seriously,…. really?
I know. I know. This person has a problem. Or this person is an A-hole.
Okay, let’s just all agree on one thing: that person was not helpful.
You weren’t helpful, you )(*&^%$ idiot person!
Whew. That felt good.
So, to recap:
(1) please don’t send me negativity in an email; and
(2) please don’t disrespect members of any group I belong to on social media after socializing with them for five hours with the assistance of alcohol.
Now, Number (3) unhelpful scenario really deserves its own essay, but I’m too tired to write two separate essays so I’ll sum it up quickly.
Number (3) happened today.
While walking my dog, I ran into a local who felt obligated to remark on my physical appearance. This person had noticed a change in my physical appearance and just had to let me know it had been noticed.
I was floored.
And I was tired from explaining satire to a nine-year old (more on that later).
Basically, I forgot how to handle someone who is really just being nosy.
I am in no way proud of this conversation, but this is how it went:
Nosy Nellie says “I notice you’ve lost weight.”
Me says “Uh, well, um, yeah, well, no, not really.”
Nosy Nellie says “Well, you look like you did.”
Me says (after rolling my eyes, I believe) “I was on medication for a condition. It makes me very bloated. Now I’m off of it. So now I’m not bloated. I hate it. But it happens. And it is what it is. And thanks for making me feel self-conscious.”
Okay, I didn’t say “thanks for making me feel self-conscious.”
I’m not quite that bold yet.
But I felt like saying it.
And I felt like saying “You know what? Just be quiet. You can never go wrong by just keeping your mouth shut. Believe me.”
But I didn’t.
But typing that sentence just now felt really good.
So lesson number three is don’t comment on anyone’s physical appearance unless it’s a really basic good thing you’re saying.
Tell them you like their outfit or jewelry or makeup. Tell them they look pretty or healthy or alive with the joy of the moment. Tell them you’re glad to see them or that their smile lights up a room.
But don’t comment on a person’s appearance just to get information about how or why they look different to you.
It’s not your business. It’s just not.
And it might not be their favorite topic.
And that’s not your business either.
Which brings me back to just being helpful.
I wouldn’t have minded if the person had asked me nicely if I was doing well and offered to help me if I ever need a little extra help.
I wouldn’t have minded that.
I’ve said similar things to neighbors and colleagues and friends in the past. I’ve let them know that I’m here for them if they ever need me for anything. I’ve let them know subtly that, if they’re going through something, I’m available to help.
I think that’s helpful.
So please, just be helpful.
Don’t create scabs or pick at scabs.
We don’t need more scabs.
Ugh. That’s a horrible note to end an essay on, huh?
Okay, let’s turn this around and talk about the power of the brain.
I am always fighting my broken brain and so I’m always excited at any sign the brain can be changed.
And today I got my sign.
My niece came over to discuss satire and civil rights and political correctness.
And to watch Nickelodeon with me.
And we made Rice Krispies Treats.
We looked up recipes on the internet to see how we might make them interesting and decided to add the caramel Hershey’s Kisses left over from holiday baking.
So we (i.e., me) starting melting the butter and marshmallows.
And then we (i.e., me) realized we were actually out of the caramel kisses. So the Rice Krispies Treats were just the regular kind, which is fine.
I told the nine year old about the missing caramels at least two or three or seventy five times.
But Nickelodeon was on.
And apparently Nickelodeon trumps anything that comes out of my mouth.
Cut to a few hours later when the sister-in-law picks up the niece and her share (four bags) of Rice Krispies Treats.
The niece comments that the Rice Krispies Treats are especially delicious because they have caramel in them.
Yes, she tasted caramel.
And yes, we’ll never let her forget the missing caramel.
So, apparently the power of persuasion is significant.
Now we just need to persuade regular people to just be helpful.