When it's hard, do more

The harder it is to help someone, the more it matters when you do so.

There are plenty of people who will help someone in a superficial manner. It’s not hard to get someone to hold the door open for you when you are carrying a package, or to recommend a restaurant.

But when someone needs major assistance, so big that they can’t even put into words what they need, that is the time your help can actually change the course of their life.

It’s easy to be slightly or occasionally generous. Doing so does not require much sacrifice. But it’s difficult to be generous in a meaningful manner. That requires canceling plans, going without things that you want, and putting in extra effort when you don’t have much energy left.

In the days following Hurricane Sandy, two families in my town - the Hofstetters and the Berneggers – decided to rent a truck, start collecting supplies from neighbors, and drive 50 miles south to the hardest hit areas of Staten Island and New York City.

One of the families lives on a highly visible corner in town, and they put out some signs asking for help. Here’s what happened next, according to a thank you note the families published in our local paper.[1]

We parked the truck in the morning, and all of a sudden, the cars started pulling in. People driving by began stopping and asking what we needed and then went to shop for the items.

“People brought goods from their homes. People brought money and wrote checks. Young children even gave up their favorite blankets, so someone could be warm…

“On Sunday, we had over 500 cars in our driveway. Many people came by multiple times. One gentleman (we are sorry we don’t know your name.) came by four times. He said he’d ‘keep taking things from his house, and if it gets real cold, he might be cold, but that was ok because his donations would help someone with a real problem.’

“His last time coming by, he donated his ‘prize possession,’ his generator. He packed it in a crate with a full can of fuel to power it and a stash of energy-saving light bulbs to maximize its efficiency.

“He should know that one of our drivers, Pete Matton, reported that the generator is powering a shelter where 100 children are living and sleeping with warmth and light because of him.”

That is the definition of doing more when it’s hard to do more.

The people who aren’t generous, who don’t make sacrifices for others, they don’t understand such behaviors. They think that giving is a cost. Not true. Giving is a benefit, to you.

The more you give, the better you feel.

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[1] WestportNow, 8 November 8 , 2012.