FOCUS: Real Help

When a person is down in the world,
an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.
— Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton


When I was about to move from an apartment to a house, a woman I hardly knew, who lived down the hall, left a message under my door saying, “If you need packing help, I’m a helluva packer.” I was happy to accept her offer, because I happen to be a pretty terrible packer. Marge, a retired army nurse, arrived at my door the next night. When she looked at my packed boxes, she said, “Oh, dear. Worse than I thought.” She plunged in unpacking and repacking what I’d started. She cut the number of boxes I needed in half! She was direct and no-nonsense and came back for three nights, teaching me as we went, until we were done. I felt the whole time that she had sensed my great need and responded with real help.

I thought of Marge when my friend Kathy suggested “Real Help” would be a great topic for a Fresh Views. Real help is very different from the common, “Let me know what I can do to help,” that many of us offer. It seems to assess the situation and respond to the heart of the need. As a therapist, Kathy once went to her boss feeling confused and overwhelmed. She was feeling desperate and had no idea how to get out of that chaotic place. After hearing Kathy’s unsorted-out problem, her boss asked, “What would relieve you the most?” Kathy thought a bit and then said one thing really bogging her down was a bunch of late discharge summaries. Her boss simply said, “Give them to me and I’ll do them.”

It is the vivid feeling that stands out for Kathy as she remembers this event years later. She told me it was hard to convey in words the surprise and relief she felt when her boss knew what Kathy needed more than she did. She’s not sure what she had expected – maybe a lecture on better time management, which would have added to her burden. Kathy was clear: “I want to say how big this was for me. It actually changed me forever and taught me life can surely change on a dime.”

Real help is usually concrete. It can include introducing just the right person or resource, bringing soup, or offering help with packing, to mention just a few possibilities.

More Examples

  • I lamented to my friend Peg that the woman caring for my elderly uncle speaks only Spanish. In spite of having taken high school Spanish, I speak very little. Spanish-speaking family members have helped, but aren’t always available. Peg said, “There are so many services available these days. Look online. I’m sure you’ll find a translation service.” And I did! It was so easy, but it had never occurred to me. I cannot tell you how this has helped me! I can now call Rosa 24 hours/day with the support of a translator.

  • Anna told me about her friend Wendy, who is going through much loss and suffering about her son-in-law who is battling cancer. The prognosis is dire. Wendy has been active in his care and doing a million other things. She mentioned to Anna that her watch had stopped working. Anna brought her one of her watches until Wendy could get the "time" to get hers fixed. Real help.

  • When my late husband Gene died, I wanted to talk about him more than anyone wanted to hear. Sensing my need, my friend Tina invited me to talk about him to my heart’s content. What a wonderful, welcome invitation. I talked about him for hours. She listened intently. It was an important part of my grieving.

Real help responds precisely to someone’s need. It requires that the helper be present, tuned in, willing to respond, and courageous enough to do or say the odd thing to fill that need.

To be on the receiving end of real help is to be deeply touched, to feel the goodness of mankind, to be lifted!

Coaching Questions

  • When have you received real help? Think about what it was, how it felt.
  • Where in your life do you feel called to offer real help now?


There will not be a telegathering this month, since I will be traveling a lot. Come hear me sing with 200 others at the 4th Annual Choral Concert at the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, May 30, 9 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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