We’re all asked to help out in big ways and small every day.  We’re currently in the season of giving, and the ask ratio has gone up tremendously across the board.  My general rule is that while we give some money every year, I also like to go do things- demonstrate with my actions as well as my words, what it means to do something for someone else.  Money sometimes is an easy proxy for action, but putting muscle or brains or time to work for someone else is often much more satisfying.

In the past month, for example, I’ve been able to:

  • Help two friends with legal questions
  • Help another friend with a business strategy challenge
  • Help another friend connect to someone for a fantastic business opportunity
  • Save one friend from getting into a deal with someone with a pretty unsavory business history after some brief research
  • Help gather items for a local family in need through an Adopt a Family program
  • Make a few new loans through Kiva– some new, some paying it forward from past loans that have been repaid;
  • and on Friday, I’ll be speaking  at a  community event for free on social media and how it can help business.

These are all small acts that, on the whole, involve more action than money .  Some of them are more time consuming than others, but each act makes the world just a little better than it was beforehand.  I could say no, or that I don’t have time, but these small favors for other people makes a huge difference to them.   In turn, I’ve gotten these benefits from others in the past month:

  • One friend has entered into an agreement to keep me on track with my fitness and diet goals;
  • One friend kept my dog while we went out of town overnight;
  • One friend  talked to me when I was having a bit of a meltdown; and
  • Another friend and I began to discuss future exciting business opportunities.

(I know there’s been more than this, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.)

We each need different things at different times in our lives.  Sometimes asking for help is the hardest part, and you can’t always count on people volunteering to help you when you need it.  But if you are open and can ask for help, you will be surprised at how much comes your way, especially if you are the person who is going out of their own way to help others when you can.

I admire those who are self-serving.  I admire people who look out for themselves and their families first.  I admire people who make sure all their own needs are met before they start to meet the needs of others.  I’m not always good at that.  I have a tendency to parse wants and needs carefully, and sometimes it’s easy to confuse them.  I’ll often put my own needs and wants on the back burner, if someone else has a need that seems more pressing or important.  The lesson I’ve had to learn over time is that if I don’t take care of myself, or even know what that really means, no one is necessarily going to be there to do it for me- I have to do some basic care taking of myself.

A certain amount of selfishness is important.  As my Mom used to say: “The saying goes “My cup runneth over- this means you can give AFTER you fill your cup- if your cup is empty, there’s going to be nothing left to give or share, so please make sure your cup has something in it.”  You can’t always deprive yourself of sleep, or exercise or even give yourself downtime, because the more you empty the proverbial cup, the less you will have to share with others.

As with all things, you have to balance helping yourself and helping others.  In this season of giving and helping, try to give with a full heart.  Do things without always expecting an ROI, just because it’s the right thing to do.  The return will come in unexpected ways, because sooner or later, we all need something.  (This month, I needed a kick in the pants, and a friend was willing to come along and provide the external motivation I needed.)  Helping when you can and helping people get access to the resources they need to help themselves is most important.  And there’s nothing I love more than that.