“At bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unutterably alone, and for one person to be able to advise or even help another, a lot must happen, a lot must go well, a whole constellation of things must come right in order once to succeed” (Rainer Maria Rilke).
HELPING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING IS ONE OF THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGES THAT CAN COME TO US. Although opportunities to try to help are plentiful, it is rare, as Rilke indicates, that everything comes together in such a way that our help ends up being truly helpful. So we should cherish the times when we’re able to help someone, exercising good stewardship of every opportunity that comes along.
When the opportunity to help presents itself, figuring out how to help often taxes the wisdom of even the wisest person. It’s not always easy to know how to help without making the situation worse. Only wisdom can answer questions like “How?” and “When?” and “How much?” But we only grow in wisdom by getting involved and making an effort, so we should always be ready to help in the best way we can. Over time, we will grow in wisdom and become better helpers.
We should never hesitate to hold out a helping hand — but neither should we hesitate to accept the helping hand of another. In fact, it’s not likely that our help will be appreciated (and may not even be accepted), if the other person sees us as being unwilling to be helped by them. Others are willing to be influenced by us only when they believe we are willing to be influenced by them. So it takes humility not only to receive help, but also to give it. The helpfulness of many a gift has been hindered by a lack of humility on the part of the giver.
It helps our humility to realize that all of us have had to be helped at many points along the way. If our present situation is one that we can be thankful for, we need to understand that we didn’t get there on our own; we had to have help. And acknowledging the grace that has been shown to us should make us better helpers of others.
Finally, sensitivity is the thing that, along with wisdom, distinguishes great help from the lesser kinds. So if we would help, we must be willing to enter the other person’s heart and feel what they feel.
“It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding” (Kahlil Gibran).