Passing On Opportunities To Help Others


You know those pedometers that people clip to their belts? You’ve seen them I’m sure; they measure how many steps you take in a day and the ideal number is apparently 10,000. Well, even if you haven’t, you’ve got a mental image now. What if you had one of those clipped to your belt and instead of steps, it measured how many times you passed on the chance to help someone out in a day?

It’s only 7:48 a.m. and already I’ve passed up on twenty that I know of. As I was driving to work, I passed individuals waiting to get on buses along the way. Now here in Ontario, I’m at the point in the year when it is black when I leave my home, and full daylight only really arrives at the same time I roll into work an hour later.

So as I come upon those people – and almost all of them are young people waiting for buses to get to school; I often want to roll down the window and extend the offer of a ride. My problem is this; first of all I drive a SMART CAR and only have one passenger seat so they can’t bring along someone else if that would make them comfortable. Secondly, there are too many stories out there where men are in the news for trolling neighbourhoods and targeting kids and young people, attempting abductions etc. The last thing I want to do is frighten someone or have them snap a picture of my car licence and have the police show up at work to question me over some alleged wrong-doing.

While I totally understand the need to be cautious, it’s sad to think that just offering someone a ride when you’ve got the room and are headed the same way could land you in more trouble than it’s worth to be nice.

At work during your day, do you ever find yourself perhaps quickly exiting a room just as you hear your name called, but you keep going pretending not to hear because you’re on your fifteen minute break or lunch? Or if a co-worker is off for a week or two, do you duck the general request made for someone to water their plants in their absence? When someone is ill, have you ever decided not to check their phone for messages, or tell them the next day that you couldn’t get to all their calls, even though you made a minimal effort in the first place?

My guess is you’ve inched your car ahead rather than let someone enter your lane on the road, looked the other way walking down the street pretending to ignore the hand extended, or looked down at your shoes instead of dropping a coin in some guys open guitar case.

Rather than make the case that we all need to be more helpful to others and preach that we be better examples of charity, I want to suggest you should actually pass on opportunities to help others; sometimes.

So for example, suppose you have had a rather challenging morning, you skipped breakfast, got interrupted on and off and finally found the time to turn your attention to the first item on your personal to-do list. Then, just a scant ten minutes into that, someone calls you and your phone displays the name of a frequent caller; someone who seems to call more to hear your voice and connect to someone rather than having some pressing need. However, that call will consume a typical fifteen minutes, won’t really address any pressing problem, but serves the need of the caller just to feel connected because they are so isolated. Should you answer it or let it go to voice-mail?

I think in a case like this, voice-mail is the preferred option. You can return that call when you have the time to do so and have accomplished some work which may directly impact on clients or customers as well. Allocating and prioritizing your time is critical to be efficient and accomplish all the things you need doing in a given day. So in this case, passing on the opportunity to help immediately is okay as long as the call is returned within whatever time frame is approved of in your workplace and of course appropriate based on the message left. After all, you may assume it’s the same old usual call to chat, but it could be an emergency.

Co-workers who ask for a moment of your time or your expertise may be surprised if you politely decline when normally you’d jump at the chance to help, but if you quickly explain you’ve got a few pressing things to do of your own for others, hopefully they understand. Again, it may depend on your past behaviour and whether you rarely or routinely pass on opportunities to help others.

Some opportunities are directly presented as in when people come right out and ask for your help. Others, and there are far more of these in a day, are when you are in the vicinity of someone in need of aid, but you haven’t been singled out as the one being asked. This is like the person asking for help on the street with an extended cup for change, an open guitar case, or perhaps someone you see struggling to figure out the photocopier and you’re close enough to see them.

And if you did wear a device that counted your missed opportunities to help, how many might you have in a day?

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