Last summer, a friend and I took a trip down to Albuquerque from Colorado where we had been staying in order to visit with another dear friend. We didn’t come with our river rafting gear nor our camera equipment in hand. Instead we came with our truck filled with brooms, buckets, cleaning supplies, hammers, nails and tools.
We had come to Albuquerque to work. It was a deliberate act on our part─ this friend had helped us out on numerous occasions and had helped others in the community for years. We wanted to do the same for her.
It was a reluctant acceptance of our generosity on her part at first. She is a proud woman and didn’t feel completely comfortable accepting “handouts.” For me, it was also a matter of “paying it forward.” How many times have I been aided by strangers or familiars when I was in need of a little boost? In the aftermath of Katrina, it was more times than I can count!
My friend is a whiz at construction and maintenance. I’m not so bad with a mop. Together we made quite a team as we dusted shelves, fixed cabinets, sanded rough spots, repaired a dying outdoor patio roof, fixed quite a few leaky faucets, weed wacked the high grass in the front yard, vacuumed the floor and swept, swept, swept. Renewed and refreshed with the busy-bee energy of the day, our friend whose house we were at, who could be deemed elderly only in years (she is younger than most I know in spirit!), even got into the act and started organizing her kitchen and bathroom.
By the time the day was done, our friend was ecstatic! All those little household repairs that need to happen in an old house, like leaky faucets and sagging shelves, had been weighing on her. In the past, she had the where-with-all to do it all herself. Now that she is older, it is becoming difficult if not impossible to do this. Her sense of relief and calm when everything was done, cleaned and repaired was clearly evident.
As night fell, our friend also made us a scrumptious dinner. We sat outside under the night sky, a cold brew in our hands and plates of goodies on our laps, marveling at what we had accomplished and feeling a sense of satisfaction that only a hard day’s work can bring.
The whole thing took about 8 hours. But my friend is still gushing today about what a difference this mini-face lift has made on her life.
This was one of the best days I remember from the life-changing summer of 2015. I think it was so memorable to me because the three of us worked as a team. We lent our skills (me in the cleaning, he in the construction and maintenance and her in that amazing meal) and we got a little exercise to boot. Most importantly, we deepened our friendship through an act of selfless giving.
Do you know someone in another town or even in your own town that needs a little help? Maybe it is an elderly relative or an overwhelmed mom you know that just needs a little help tidying up. Maybe it is a disabled neighbor that could use a hand. Maybe there is an errand or two you can do for a friend who had helped you in the past.
In the olden days, when most of us lived on farms and in villages, the number of hands to keep things going and to help each other out was much larger. Times, of course, have changed. Many of us, even if we have lived on our street for years, don’t know all, if any, of our neighbors any more.
This holiday season, take a helping retreat in your own neighborhood or across the world. If you are planning a vacation, why not include a stop to see an old friend who may need a lift? Bring a meal and share a glass of holiday cheer. If you are staying home, take a retreat in your own backyard. Do you know who are your neighbors are? If there is someone that just moved in or someone you barely know, why not bring them some goodies just for the heck of it?
It’s true you can’t trust everybody, but MOST PEOPLE are kind, generous and open to friendship. Your neighbors might also prize their privacy and that also needs to be respected. But sometimes a gesture as simple as a hello, a basket of cookies or an honest “Let me know if you need any help” can do wonders to lift someone’s spirits.
Even though we may be private people, we do not have to be alone.
In future blog posts, I will be talking about other ways to help out in your home town and around the world this holiday season and any time of the year!
Have you ever had the experience of helping others? Have you been helped by others—either strangers or familiars—when you needed it most? If so, please share your experiences in the Comments Section below!