Helen Keller was one of the first heros of my life. As a young bibliophile, I read every Helen Keller book I could lay my hands on. By age 10, I had exhausted the modest supply of our local libraries and had seen The Miracle Worker performed locally.
I wrote my favorite Helen Keller quotes in a diary I kept at the time. One of those I recorded as a child, now hangs in our laundry room, above the family bulletin board:
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. Helen Keller
It is there as a reminder for me and my children that we must do what we can do in our work, families and communities.
Another hero from my childhood was Clara Barton. Clara was every inch the quintessential, maverick feminist before the term feminist was even coined. I still imagine she would have gotten around to burning her bra (or corset, I guess) had she not been so busy dodging bullets and tending to Civil War soldiers on active battlefields. Oh, yeah, that and founding the American Red Cross kept her busy.
Like Helen Keller, Clara Barton had much to say. Clara did not hesitate to pepper her comments with iconoclastic sass. Her boldness made people of her day uncomfortable and guaranteed that I fell in love with her. She made the favorite quotes section of my diary too of course:
I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past. Clara Barton
To this day, when I seek humanitarian inspiration, I remember these two quotes and fine women.
They came to mind again today as I considered what I might do for G’s family. For those of you who are not regular readers, G was a husband, father of four, custodial guardian of three nieces, Christian, physician, local philanthropist and community church member who quit his life and died by his own hand two and a half weeks ago.
In situations like these, when the need is so great, and the situation so charged with loss, people may want to do something and feel uncertain what would be helpful or appropriate. Upon contemplation, some people respond to the scope of a circumstance and shut down, knowing that nothing they do will improve the quality of every part of the dynamic. Being only one person, knowing they can not do everything, they instead do nothing, not because they don’t want to help, but don’t know how to offer what they can do.
In regard to service, I am with Clara Barton. She doesn’t want to hear about what I don’t know or can’t do, she has complete faith of something better.
In regard to service, something is better than nothing.
And it’s ok to go outside the box in how you offer help. Defy the tyranny of precedent and trust what you offer might improve the situation of another.
Here then, is a list of things you might do to offer help or support to a person or family in time of need:
Somethings I Can Do Go-To List:
1. Bring a meal or organize the deliver of a meal from a local restaurant.
2. Clean a room or floor of the person’s home.
3. Bring paper products: napkins, plates, cups, silverware, paper towels, bleach wipes, toliet paper etc. (In times of loss, families often have extra people in and out of their homes.)
4. Bring a bag of board games, art supplies, craft supplies, jewelry kits, etc. for kids and young adults to enjoy.
5. Lend favorite movies, wii games, and computer games for kids and young adults to enjoy.
6. Organize outings and playmates for children of the family.
7. Gas up the family’s vehicles.
8. Detail the family’s vehicles.
9. Bring a guest book for people to sign.
10. Post a chore list that people may sign-up for when they visit.
11. Order books from Amazon and have them delivered directly to the house.
12. Make a CD of favorite songs and mail to house with card.
13. Share any photos you have of deceased person. Consider making a Shutterfly book or photo albumn.
14. Write a poem, song or tribute of deceased person.
15. Pedicure gift card.
16. Take family member out for hair cut.
17. Take family member out for lunch or coffee.
18. Bring family member their favorite Starbucks beverage.
19. Drop off ice-cream, toppers, whipped cream and sundae dishes.
20. Restaurant gift cards to family’s favorite place(s).
21. Whole Foods, Giant, Harris Teeter or Kroger gift cards.
22. Yard Work.
23. Clean gutters.
24. Plant a tree to honor deceased or seed hope.
25. Send scripture, quotes, positive notes via email daily/bi-weekly/weekly.
26. Bring children’s class cupcakes.
27. (If family has young children) Purchase supply of diapers, wipes, ointments, etc.
28. Do family’s laundry.
29. Bring stamps and stationary.
30. Offer to write thank-you notes or acknowledgements.
31. Weekends are often hardest, visit or plan an outing and/or invite family to spend the weekend in your home.
32. Make or purchase a plaque with a message that would encourage family member.
33. Bring an assortment of teas, juices, sodas. (Drinks are often in shorter supply than food, and often the only thing people in pain consume.)
34. Make a coffee basket with assorted flavored coffees, creamers, sweeteners, and maybe even biscotti.
35. Bring a pamper basket of favorite beauty supplies: make-up, shampoo, lotion, etc.
36. Find a beautiful bowl or platter and fill it with fresh fruit, cheeses or flowers and deliver to home.
37. Send flowers to home via florist or wire service.
38. Leave notes of encouragement on Post-Its around house or on mirrors in home.
39. Water plants.
40. Bring over a fix-it box of household stuff. Change light bulbs, oil door hinges, caulk tub tiles.
41. Lay in a supply of garbage bags and or cleaning supplies.
42. Run errands: pick up cleaning, return library books, take mail to post office, sort mail.
43. Purchase cinema gift cards and give with movie candy and card.
44. Take kids of family bowling.
45. Go for a hike with family member.
46. Call. Listen.
47. Leave prayer on answering machine.
48. Bring new work-out clothes, free weights, or exercise DVD to family member.
49. Create a blog or web site for updates, communication of needs and messages of encouragement.
50. Tend to the family pets. Bring food, walk dogs, clean litter boxes.
51. Create your own.
It’s natural and easy not to know what to do when people we love are in need.
These are simply examples of things you might choose to do for others.
I’ll bet you have even better ideas.
I imagine you have stories about something someone once did for you _something that so filled your heart or served you where you were_ that you remember it to this day.
I would love, love, love if you would leave a comment with you ideas and stories.
It’s something you can do _give another an idea to help them identify what they can do to nurture comfort and offer hope_
I believe a main mission in life is to love one another, develop our talents and share our resources.
Let’s do what we can do.
Let’s deny the tyranny of precedent and give the unexpected.
Let’s love one another intentionally.
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen in the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah