Sorry for the confusing title, my thoughtful wife put a lot of thought into it.
I have been reflecting lately on how helpful I am to those around me and if there are opportunities for me to serve more (or more effectively). There’s only so much time in the day but I strive to be a good friend and neighbor.
What I came to find is a weird paradox in myself and how I think about helping others. I’m not sure how many people out there will relate to this, but I have a feeling it is not very many. Read on to see how weird I am.
As I talked to my wife about my thoughts we contrasted how I try to help others with “normal people.” One comparison is a close family member that exemplifies normal, and we’ll call her Winifred, to protect the innocent.
Winifred is a very thoughtful person, and often texts me out of the blue because something random reminded her of me. I imagine she does this to many people.
At Christmastime it is easy to see by the amount of cards on the mantle that she maintains many friendships with coworkers, neighbors and other associates. I can attest that she goes to painstaking lengths to serve, give and let people know she cares about them. She is meticulous and selfless and remembers important dates of family and friends.
This is what I consider normal to some degree. She is proactive and reaches out to people and often gives us updates on family and friends to pray and fast for. When she perceives discomfort she is quick to come to your aid.
I care deeply about a lot of people and proactively try to maintain relationships with old friends and coworkers. As far as my side of the family goes, I’m almost always the one that instigates conversations.
When news comes to me of some relative or friend having difficulty, whether it be work, family, health related or otherwise, I often find myself handling it different that what I think a “normal” person would do.
Instead of praying for their difficulty to go away, I don’t think that is always in the persons best interest. Sometimes bad things need to happen for them to hit rock bottom harder, and come out stronger for it. Sometimes getting bailed out of the trial prevents the character development and the experience needed for future success.
That’s where you often get the lesson, and the resolve to never get to that desperate point again.
Make Life Harder
I have a coworker who is overweight, and complains about health problems. From my perspective, they seem to make little effort to solve the root cause. One day they asked if I had a spare fork at my desk at lunch time. I did, and handed it over. All this to avoid a 50 foot walk to the break room.
This is where I get weird. Sure, I kindly provided a utensil, performing a small act of service. However, I’m genuinely concerned about my coworkers overall health. I know it ain’t much, but walking to the break room a couple times a day is likely about 10% of this persons daily exercise.
Now I say I don’t have any utensils, even if I do. I know it is not right to lie, but it is a lie that helps. The goal is to move more, not less. I am no longer the enabler.
I don’t think every difficulty is self imposed, or that we deserve bad things to happen to us. It’s just a fact of life that we all face challenges.
My life has not been easy by any means, but many have had it harder. I’ve broken bones, concussions, a couple surgeries, been socially isolated, watched my parents fight and divorce, experienced the death of my mother, been fired from a job, moved cross country away from family support. None of us are exempt from trial, and hardship is the forge that can produce men and women of steel.
Tough times often lead to stronger resolve, increased diligence and renewed desire to excel. I realize that I would be hypocritical to hope others learn their lessons through hardship and not say myself “Give me this mountain” as did Spencer W. Kimball. Give me these challenges, with their lessons, their soul refining qualities.
Taking It Too Far
I’m not a health fanatic but I find it an usual custom to bring sweets to people as a gesture of goodwill.
For example, a neighbor moves in across the street. Other neighbors soon take notice and start baking cookies, brownies and other goodies to welcome them.
In essence we are saying “Welcome, we’re so glad you are here. Please enjoy this thing I made that will be detrimental to you and your family’s health.”
I get it. I like pie as much as the next guy but in a way, doing something nice for someone is basically doing something mean to them and society deems this totally normal.
Enable, Disable Or Neither
As Mrs. FrugalStu succinctly observed, Winifred is thoughtful in a way that spurs her to act and go out of her way to serve others.
I on the other hand, am thoughtful in a way that often leads me to inaction, or even action that then demands more action by the person I’m being thoughtful towards.
I think we’re both right, some of the time, and wrong, some of the time.
Which way do you lean?
Also, what’s something I can bring new neighbors that isn’t bad for them but wouldn’t be weird?
Originally posted Feb 4 2020