Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What Can I Do To Help You?

"What can I do to help you?"

I have to be honest. That question annoys the hell out of me. I get asked it a lot, and people seem to get offended when I tell them they can support me financially, as if helping me economically was somehow wrong. Those who are close to me know full well that I need help, both financially and physically. Without some direct help from them, things would get pretty bleak for me.

Of course financial help is not the only way. Another way, just as important, and just as costly, is to help me by spending time with me, by doing things with me, by taking me out for lunch or out for a movie, by sitting on the couch with me watching something on Netflix or a game on TV. I know that time is money, and many people have lives which are just too busy or challenging to spend time with me. Some people are too far away, or don't have the transportation they need. Finding time to spend with a sick person, and it;s often not a lot of fun; there are so many other demands in your day that taking time for a visit like this would really jam things up.

Yet when people ask "What can I do?", they seem surprised at my two answers, surprised at the specific request, surprised that somehow I might need something they have, something they can offer. I think in most cases people don't really want to help; they want absolution for not helping. They want me to say "There is nothing you can do." They want to hear me tell them I'm fine, that I need for nothing, that they need not worry themselves about me. They want to feel like they are off the hook from their guilt, free to move on in the knowledge that I said "no thanks."

Those who truly want to help me don't even ask that question; they already know how to help me. I've been fairly clear about where I need help. There are so many things you can do to help me, and some of you are doing so much already. As my life and situation worsens, there are those of you who consistently help me, without asking how. You step up, and you make my life better.

It doesn't take much to see the changes in my life thanks to ALS. I used to have a well paid career. I used to get out socially at least three nights a week. I used to cook terrific meals for myself and my guests. I used to... I used to... I used to... You see, that's the problem. So many things I once did I can no longer do, thanks to ALS, thanks to finances, thanks to being alone. These days, I need help finding a reason to live. I need help to escape my loneliness. I need help to escape the four walls of my apartment.

If you want the best example of true friendship and help, look at what David did last weekend. He took three days out of his life to drive me to Saskatoon. He took time off work so we could leave early in the afternoon. He spent his own time alone while I was with friends at the wedding. He spent his own money to buy us gas and lunches on the road. David made the real commitment of both his time and his money to help me. Others have done this for me too, family and friends. This is a true gift.

Other of my friends do the same. They don't just buy groceries for me; they take me grocery shopping and pick up the tab. They don't just come to eat with me; they bring food and share the joy of cooking it with me. They share the wine making process with me, and then let me share in the wine. Those people are helping. This is another true gift.

Then there are the distant supporters, the people who take the time to click on the Donate button on my blog. These people are helping me in the most tangible way they can. Distance separates them from me, yet they contribute in practical terms. Their support means I can get my own wine kits now and again, or I can go to Trivia Nights on Mondays, or I can save up and make a weekend road trip to Saskatoon. Those people are helping me.

Giving should hurt, just a little. If you help someone and it is painless to you, then what have you really done? Well, at least you've done more than those who ask "What can I do to help you?", and then do nothing. If you are not willing to feel the pain of truly helping me, then don't ask. The people who truly help in my life haven't had to ask either. They know how they can help me.

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