I think human beings are innately kind. Indeed, research tells of toddlers readily helping others to achieve their goals… the altruism within them is a natural instinct.
So why is it that we hear of such atrocities around the word? And headlines shout that we in Western society nowadays are ‘all out for ourselves’… and then there are the millennials who get a really bad reputation when it comes to being ‘selfish’ and wanting ‘instant gratification’.
I still believe, however, that being kind and helping our fellow man is deep down who we are. True, we are all too often wrapped up in modern day ‘survival’, ‘getting through the day’, juggling our to do lists and multiple devices – so that it is easy to overlook a friend in need, a community wanting support, a stranger in the street who could do with a helping hand. Sometimes it’s fear that stops us (will the stranger mug me?), sometimes it’s a lack of understanding of another’s plight (he can’t really be that ill), other times it may well be, dare I say it, that we are all too consumed in ourselves and our own lives.
Whatever the reason, I have a major request this week to all of you Hubbers for December: please reach out to someone who needs support. Look around you, take the time, and see what you can do to help.
Dimi’s recent blog talked honestly about how he had learnt that he needed to ask others for help when he felt anxious or down; how it helped to explain to friends and family his issues, his challenges, his thoughts, his feelings. Being able to do this with his nearest and dearest empowered them to understand, to empathise, and then to offer support.
Asking for help can be tough… I know that more than ever. We British, in particular, often have that mindset of let’s just get on with it. We hate wasting the time of the precious NHS, since we know how squeezed it is and are ever-aware we’re privileged to have it. We can often feel a burden if we are asking of others, and think we should be able to cope alone.
But my second request, Hubbers, echoes Dimi’s words – please ask for help! It can be really tough – will someone say no and make an excuse (it’s tough when that happens), will they offer something and not follow through (almost worse), or will they just think that we’re a ‘useless’ friend? I believe, the true gems in life will see you are in need and will hold out a hand. They will take the downs with the ups. Choose these people wisely, but know they are there. And remember deep down people do want to help – but sometimes you need to give them a little nudge.
In terms of reasons why people do not offer their help (specifically when witnessing a crime, from which I think we can learn), John Darley and Bibb Latane found two key explanations. Firstly, people may not realise that there is a problem, particularly if people around aren’t behaving as if there is one. However, even if they do recognise a crime, they may still not intervene to help the victim if there are lots of people around. The instinct here is that there is somebody around who is more qualified to intervene than you are. And yet, it has also been shown, that if you do ask for help, people are more likely to oblige than you think. In a study by Francis Flynn and Vanessa Lake, they found that people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help.
So, in line with this, I ask all of you Hubbers to really take a long look around you and see if there is someone in need that you could support: buy their shopping, cook them a meal, pop round for a cuppa, send them a card, or even give them a call. Each and every one of us will have different wants, so most of all ask that person… ‘What can I do to help?’ You may want to acknowledge that you live 100 miles away so can’t do anything immediate; or that you have 3 children and ageing parents so unfortunately are unable to visit this week. But, I’m guessing, that question alone, ‘What can I do to help?’ will give them hope – in life, in humankind, in their future – and will truly make them feel better. There will always, always, be something (big or small) that you can do. And, if you are in need of help yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for it. People may simply not realise that you need them – but they are more willing to help than you think!
Helping – it just takes a little bit of time, a good deal of thought, and a whole load of love.