For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this belief that if you can help, you should. That it’s your obligation as a person to do what you can, when you can, to improve the lot of someone in need. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as small as moving a floundering earthworm off the sidewalk to keep it from getting dried up in the sun. If you can, then you should.
It isn’t necessary to be wealthy or retired or fit. All that’s needed is a willingness to share, be it your time or your muscle or your talent or your truck.
Yet it can get so complicated. Especially when favors and kindnesses become expected rather than appreciated. It’s then that the giver can begin to feel foolish, and after a while, resentful.
Sometimes we expect more from others simply because we know we’d be willing to do so much for them. It’s hard not to be hurt by the ease with which some fail to offer assistance, knowing they’re aware of a situation, yet choose to stay mum.
A friend told me there comes a time to stop crossing oceans for those who wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. Since I was feeling surrounded by pros at puddle avoidance, I drew a trench in the sand and declared, “No more!”
And then that I received one of those forwarded emails with cutesy clip art and crudely animated GIFs, the kind I almost never read, but the person who sent it seldom forwards such things, so I was curious.
Basically, it was a story about a mouse that saw the farmer’s wife with a new mousetrap, so it raced all over the farm, warning the other animals.
The chicken, cow and pig said they understood his concern, but considering it was a mousetrap, believed the news was of no consequence to them. The poor mouse was left to face his problem alone.
That night, the farmer’s wife heard something thrashing about in the trap and rushed to investigate. In the darkness, she failed to see the trap had snapped on the tail of a venomous snake, and it bit her. She became terribly ill, with a high fever. Since one of the remedies for a fever is chicken soup, the farmer took his hatchet to the barn to collect the soup’s main ingredient.
As her sickness worsened, friends and relatives came to sit with her. To feed all the company, the farmer butchered the hog. Then the farmer’s wife died and so many came for her funeral that the farmer slaughtered to cow to provide food for his guests.
The mouse realized that even though his friends knew of his problem, they didn’t believe it concerned them, but the thing is–we’re all in this together. We need to watch out for each other, lend a hand when we can.
I’d been feeling burned by some of the gleeful takers I’d encountered of late, so I decided to watch for signs that everyone isn’t that way.
I saw a friend’s post on Facebook about plans to adopt a shelter dog that has cancer. (“He might only have six months,” she wrote, “but I’m going to make them the best six months of his life.”)
Then I read an email from Timothy Merrill’s mom (the Down’s Syndrome man I wrote about a few months back, who readers then swamped with bunches of mail) telling about Brad Paisley’s dad giving Timothy tickets to the concert and arranging to have pictures taken together back stage.
Then I got an offer from a former coworker, Dan Walker, to use his truck to help move a dresser. And he wouldn’t even let me give him money for gas.
Then I had a couple friends offer to help me finish moving and clean.
So even though the takers may gather and swarm from time to time, I’m grateful that there are still more sympathetic than apathetic people in my life.
The takers may eat well, but I’m guessing it’s the givers who sleep.