The Self-Improvement Chronicles: When Helping Hurts

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.— Dalai Lama

Pam came up with the assignment for this week: to find ways to help others, probably because she knew she’d be in Kentucky helping out her mother who’s just had surgery.  (Of course, what she didn’t count on was forgetting to turn in her assignment.)

Besides the fact that most of us just think it’s a good thing to do, helping others also has positive effects on our own happiness and physical health. Helpers are happier, less likely to become depressed, and may even get sick less often.

So this assignment should have been a win/win, right? We help,and we are helped. Well, not quite.

Two of us (Emily and the Jolly Librarian) found this to be a most difficult assignment, not because we’re against helping but because it seemed that our results were less than stellar.

You see, last Sunday, a woman pointed out a stray dog at the Bellevue track. Since I know some folks in animal rescue, I said I’d email and see if someone could help it. The incredible Lucy Howell and her friends have done just that, checking for the dog each day and trying to line up a foster family. And that’s part of the problem. Compared to what they’ve been doing, my simple email seems less like help and more like throwing the problem onto someone else.

Even Emily got involved. Last night, she and her husband drove out to Bellevue to leave it some food and water. But blessed with an Eyeorish temperament, she reported that she never saw the dog and the food probably ended up feeding several rabid animals instead.

 

So on to our reports:

Pam: She forgot to send in her report, which, any other week would mean a failing grade. But we do know she’s taking care of her mother since she called from a Kentucky Kroger on Monday to ask Charles how to cook a certain dish.

Colette: This week’s exercise was easy peasy.  When you work in the Library, you get to help people all day, every day.  And I do mean “get to” not “have to.”  It’s very rewarding, when a student or faculty member comes into the Library with a problem, and I can be part of his/her solution.  It doesn’t matter if it’s as small a need as helping a student print a paper, or as large as walking him through finding quality research; it all feels good.  In my home life, I try every day to do something that benefits the household, not just me.  When it’s 8:30 p.m. and I’ve just gotten home from work, it may be something as insignificant as wheeling out the trash can to the curb.  On more ambitious days, it might be baking some cookies or cleaning out the chicken coop.  I just try to find at least one thing each day that helps the other members of my family in some small way.

Emily: You could put that I tried to help a dog, but instead likely attracted disease carrying rodents to Bellevue Middle School.

Jolly Librarian: I did take a grocery cart from an elderly man, so he wouldn’t have to wheel it back into Publix.

Our grades:

Pam:     A

Colette:   A

Emily:   A (She drove to Bellevue to feed a dog she’d never seen.)

Jolly Librarian: B

P.S.  One nice thing about reading Colette’s update is a reminder of how much we’re able to help people each day. After a while, we forget about it and think it’s just part of our job. And it is. But it’s good to be in a profession where we get to be helpers on a regular basis.

 

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