Friday, August 8, 2014

Help Me If You Can

Do you try to make the world a better place? It is easy to do. The next time you see someone, smile at them. Usually they will smile back. You have given someone a smile. What a wonderful gift.

Of course if you have the time and inclination there are other things you can do. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is ill. Offer to go to the store for them. Or offer to straighten their house so they can rest. Or take them some nice hot chicken soup. Make them something cool to drink. Just think; with a minimal effort you can make someone's life easier.

When I was quite young polio was still a major threat in our country. The March Of Dimes was founded on the premise that if everyone would give one dime a cure could be found. My school had an even better idea.

Each child was encouraged to take a strip of scotch tape that was as long as the child was tall. Then place dimes side by side along the length of the tape. Then place another length of tape over the dimes to keep them from falling off. Those were our donations to The March Of Dimes that year. It was fun for us and we contributed to the cause.

Often you see the Candy Stripe girls and boys in places that offer medical care. It is the job of these people to take care of mundane tasks like delivering reading materials, refreshing water pitchers, and maybe fluffing a pillow or two. Sometimes they just provide some company for a patient who would like to talk. The tasks may not seem important but they are and they are time consuming. It is a lot of time that frees the nurses to do the duties they trained for.

I was a candy striper at a nursing home. I answered phones and read to patients. Besides being a help to the professional workers, I learned a great deal.

Another unpaid job I had was at the town's museum. The museum was old and had a lot of artifacts. It was located in a building that used to be someone's home. Historical items had accumulated over the years and they were piling up.

The museum placed an advertisement in the newspaper seeking people to help sorting, identifying, and cataloging all those items. I volunteered.

This was an interesting experience. I live in the Plains area of the United States. Often the area is associated with Indians. There were many tribes in my area and there were artifacts from them in our museum. Just learning what they were and how they were used was an education.

We had animal pelts. First of all they were so dusty! And we had to be careful handling them because they were so old so there was no shaking to rid them of dust. Likewise no vacuuming. I sneezed a lot when we ran across pelts.

I visited the new museum a few years ago when I was in the area. I was amazed at how many of the same items were still on display. I feel as if I were a part of history.

When I lived in the big city there were beggars on the street. Now to be fair some of them offered services in return for a hand-out. Some would position themselves at stoplights to wash your windshield in exchange for a bit of money, for instance.

But usually they just asked for enough money to buy a meal. If I have a couple of extra dollars I certainly feel like I could feed someone. I also know that many of these panhandlers will only use money to buy a drink. I feel better about a situation if I purchase a meal for them. Then they will get a bit of nourishment before the next drink. Not everyone agrees with me but it is my money after all.

A lot of my helping people revolves around food for some reason. I do not think that anyone should be hungry in today's world. I knew a woman whose husband had been arrested. To be honest I did not particularly like this woman. But she called me looking for some help. She was unsure how she would pay her bills and buy food.

I immediately went to my children. We filled a grocery bag with canned goods. I had a little m
 eat in the freezer and gave her some. She was surprised when one of my sons delivered the food. It seems that what she was actually looking for was money to go play bingo. So I was fooled! But I would do it again under the same circumstances so I do not feel bad.

The Salvation Army does some wonderful work. They help people in crisis situations such as if a house burns and people need lodging, food, and clothing.

The Salvation Army is actually a religious organization. Instead of the usual titles in a church the leaders have military titles.

You will see the pots for donations all over the place at Christmas time. They are watched over by bell ringers. The bell ringers are paid employees who usually make minimum wage. There is nothing wrong with that. These are people who might not have a job otherwise. The money from the pots is used to purchase items to ensure that people of small means have a decent holiday.

I worked as a bell ringer when I was a senior in high school. It was good money. But I did not consider that as helping others. I had a job and I earned money. It was not giving of myself.

Many years later I volunteered for a time helping to sort donated items in one of their stores. That time was, for me, not paid. I worked hard and I hope I helped make someone's life better.

One night/morning after work the drummer for the band I managed was hit by a hit-and-run driver as he was walking across the street to buy some cigarettes. For several weeks we were not sure whether he would live or then lived to be normal. Since he was a young self-employed musician he had no health insurance.

Musicians have a unique way to help each other. We organized a benefit. Besides the band he played for there were 6 or 7 other bands from the area happy to donate their time and music to help a comrade.

The bar the band played in agreed to allow the use of the bar. So we set a date for the benefit. We would serve food for a small fee and ask for donations. I approached businesses for donations of what we needed.

We got hamburger meat and hot dogs. Potato chips were donated. One of our favorite customers drove a delivery truck for Wonder Bread. He convinced them to donate the buns we needed as well as miniature loaves of bread that we used as prizes for games. A local bottler even donated cases of soda pop as long as we returned all the bottles. People are so kind if given a chance.

The proceeds from everything (except liquor sales... illegal) went to pay his hospital bills. So many people donated time as well as money. It was a wonderful success. The family of the drummer came to thank everyone. They were so gracious and grateful.

By the way our drummer made a complete recovery. Even the doctors were surprised. Do you think it was the outpouring of love that did it?

Remember that children need to be taught to give of themselves. Teach them to help neighbors with chores appropriate to the age of the child. Older people can always use some help mowing the lawn, scooping snow from the sidewalk, or pulling weeds. The relationships they build will be a bonus.

I am gratified that many schools are now requiring a certain amount of community service from the students in order to graduate. They recognize that we all need to pitch in to make a better place for others. So give someone a smile. You will both feel good.


  1. This post has made me feel good Emma.

  2. Making people feel better comes in so many ways as you have noted here, Emma. Perhaps I am in a minority these days of electronic instand communications, but One of my favorite things to do is to send cards, notes and even letters to friends and others and not just on special days like birthdays, etc. it always gives me a smile when the recipient lets me know it "made" their day. And, like you I have also volunteered for various organizations as well.

    1. There you are! Another way to give a smile. You are wonderful.