A Season for Helping ...

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In the wee hours of Sunday morning, some good friends of ours lost their home to fire. They and their four young children were able to escape quite literally with only the clothing on their backs. The family is infinitely grateful to God for sparing their lives, but obviously is in need of many material items.

I've had the privilege of over-seeing fund-raising and donation efforts on their behalf this week. In such a capacity, you meet and interact with multitudes of people ... all with different personalities and viewpoints on life. It has caused my husband and I to talk quite a bit about the best way for *us* to respond and offer to help folks who encounter tragedy in their lives. We, quite naturally, have encountered many wonderfully giving folks, and a few here and there who rubbed our feathers the wrong way. As a result, I decided to do a little research into what the "experts" might have to offer on the etiquette of giving to those in need.

The Trauma Intervention Program is a national organization that trains volunteers to provide emotional aid and practical support to victims of a variety of tragic circumstances. They have created a wonderful web site titled Helping Others When Tragedy Strikes. It is full of very practical and helpful suggestions for reaching out to others in times of great need. A couple of points made on their site really resonated with us this past week as we found ourselves working with so many wonderfully giving folks.

What is not easy for the helper is to meet the needs of the survivor and not his own needs.  All human beings are filled with values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, opinions and prejudices.  These are characteristics which make us unique individuals. However, they also get in our way when we try to help. So, a basic core challenge for you as a helper will be to put all your “stuff” aside and to focus on what is best for the survivor.

What a wonderful reminder that helping someone else isn't about me at all! If someone I'm hoping to help doesn't return a phone call or email right away, or doesn't seem appreciative enough of what I've done, I need to remember that it isn't about me.

The importance of a Caring DemeanorYour overall gentle, quiet caring demeanor is the most important part of being an effective helper. Survivors often don’t hear what you say or see what you do, but they will sense your overall caring presence. Before “rushing in” to help a survivor take time to take your “everyday personality” off, and put on the caring demeanor described here. Before helping, take time to calm yourself and to remind yourself that the person you are going to help needs your calmness and your caring presence above all else.

This was an important point for me to recognize. I'm not too bad on thinking about *what* I'm going to say before I open my mouth, but I don't always pay a great deal of attention to *how* I'm going to say it. I think this point is closely related to the other I mentioned ... what I say and how I say it can be so totally self-focused if I'm not careful.

Jesus reminded His disciples that Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.  (Mark 9:35) And Paul reminds us Don't be selfish, don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

I think the most valuable lesson I've learned this week is that the best way for me to meet the needs of another, is to remove "self" from the picture. A true servant's attitude means that whatever I do is accomplished with no expectation of acknowledgement or something in return. That everything I do is done with the other person in mind. Whew ... that's mighty challenging!

In this season of giving, please allow me to challenge you to consider "how" you give. I have been very thankful for this recent opportunity to consider my motivation and responses as I reach out to help some friends. Some of what I found as I searched my heart surprised me.

Merry Christmas!
~Judy Wnuk
Sonlight Customer Champion

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