Do People Still Help One Another? Compassion Wrap Up with Dr. Robyn

Friday Musings: An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robyn Silverman

There are times when you have a bag in each hand, a box on your head, and your keys dangling from your mouth and nobody would think to help you. We’re just not in the land of compassion. People are self-centered—listening to their i-pods, playing with their blackberries, and tuning into their favorite radio station, W.I.F.M. (What’s in It For Me).

So you can imagine how struck I was the other day when I was at an organic food market and people were actually helpful. Now I know what you’re thinking, “that’s their job,” but it’s a lot of people’s jobs to be helpful and you and I know that most of the time, they’re not.

Just think for a moment about the people on the other end of just about any service call, insurance inquiry, or typical grocery store check-out. Standing on line at my typical grocery store can take three times longer than it should since Mary is shouting over to the next check-out station, “Hey Ashley, “whatcha doing now?” instead of ringing in the one box of Coco Puffs that the woman is attempting to buy in front of me.

Anyway, back to the organic food store. It wasn’t anything that was that big of a deal. But I think that’s why it made such an impression on me. Two tired women were pushing baby carriages with one hand while they carried their lunches (salads and a soup balanced on top) in the other.

I pulled up behind them just as they were navigating towards the cashiers– when a thin, bearded man swooped in from what seemed like a secret side door, and approached the women. He asked, “Can I take those to the cashiers for you, ladies?” Given the “every man for himself” treatment in the typical grocery store, you can imagine how shocked they were. And I was too.

This “Compassion Concierge” of sorts, took their lunches and brought them directly to the shortest line, placed the lunches on the conveyer belt, and asked the ladies if there was anything else he could do for them. Would they need some help getting the food out to the car? Did they need any other groceries that he could run and bring them while they waited on line to pay for their lunches?

Holy Moly. It really made an impression on me. It wasn’t this man’s “job” to make things easier for these ladies. How many times do we hear, “it’s not my job” as an excuse for why people can’t be more helpful? He saw a need and he reacted. Can you imagine if all of us reacted in the same way with people in our communities?

So the next time I walked into the store, I found the helpful man. It turns out that his name is Buck. I told him how much I appreciated how he went the extra mile. Thats when he told me; “I’m team leader here at our store. I don’t just think it’s important to react in these ways for the customers– but also for the young people who are watching me to see what they should be doing.” Buck is a smart man.

Now that we’re wrapping up compassion month, we know that nobody’s looking for heroics. We’ve all heard it before–small acts of kindness can make such a difference. It takes such a short amount of time and a simple willingness to open one’s eyes and lend a helping hand. This man didn’t get paid anything extra nor did he ask for applause. But I imagine he made the day of two exhausted Mommies who were just so happy to be given a little break from having to do it all. And perhaps he inspired some other young people to be a little more helpful.

As parents, we need to follow Buck’s lead. At this time, why not:

  1. Take the time to recognize someone who goes the extra mile– even when nobody’s looking. Perhaps it’s someone at your Powerful Words Member School– or someone at work– or a young person in the community. When people are recognized for the helpful little things they do, they tend to do even more of them– and they realize that they are indeed helpful to others. That means a great deal
  2. Do something compassionate– show your children that there is indeed a moment to slow down. We often run from one thing to the next– but sometimes, it’s important to take a moment and do a small act of kindness. These are the vital lessons we must teach our children so that they just accept it as a normal part of life.
  3. Ask your family– what compassionate acts have you engaged in this month? Highlight those moments when your children thought of others. Talk about the moments that you slowed down to help someone who needed it and how it made you feel. Find out how your children felt when they helped someone feel better about something– shared with them– gave them a hug. Even a short conversation can make a big impact. It will help you to relay your family values and your children to learn what’s really important.

Have a wonderful weekend-


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