I smiled, grateful that someone with such a confident, positive attitude had come forward to help us out of our predicament. My dad was frustrated that he’d gotten the car stuck. Being from upstate New York, he was very used to driving in snow. He was also used to living in a state where they own and operate many snow plows to clear roads and parking lots in a timely manner.
The kind gentleman stood behind our car and helped us by pushing when we rocked it forward to get out of the little ditch.
When we finally got out, I turned around to wave and say thanks.
I was reminded of this recently not just because we got some snow and are getting even more today, but also because it’s been on my mind what varied approaches people have when they see someone struggling.
Working with children as well as adults, there have been countless times when I’ve seen people having a hard time with something. Whether it’s tying their shoes, lamenting booboos, meeting a tight deadline, or walking a fine line, others often notice when someone is having a tough time of it.
Depending on the situation and personalities, the potential helper takes different approaches. Some kids will come up and in a loud voice tell their classmate what he or she is doing wrong. This often results in a fight, hurt feelings, and at the very least, a rumble in the classroom jungle. Others will do the task for their classmates instead of helping them do it themselves, which gives them two messages: I can do this and you can’t.
The best scenario happens when a teacher or another student comes over and asks if the person would like help. If and when he or she says yes, the person gives instructions about how something is done, demonstrating it if necessary. Asking first shows respect to the individual, who may very well want to get the stupid double knot out of his own light-up Superman shoes this time.
We do a great disservice when we step in assuming our assistance will be necessary and welcomed. We run roughshod over people if we criticize them instead of pointing out in a positive way what could be done differently, then offering to help.
There will always be situations in life in which we’ll see people struggling with someone or something. We may think we know the best solution to a problem (and sometimes we do), but we are frequently the most help when we ask questions, listen, and respect the person’s decisions even if we don’t understand or agree with them.
I know when I’ve struggled with something, I’m most receptive to the people who ask questions, listen, and show through their words and actions that they genuinely care about me.
I tend to be on the defensive if things start out with someone telling me all the things they believe I’m doing wrong. Far too many times in my life, that’s how I’ve begun talking to someone I think should be doing something differently. The result has often been an argument.
What I guess you could call the careless cowboy approach has never gone as well as those times when I ask questions and listen first instead of making snap judgments and unfair, often inaccurate, assumptions.
Lord, please give me the wisdom to be a compassionate, loving, gentle presence to others, especially when they are struggling. Amen.