When offering help…
I often talk about how easy helping people is, like it’s some kind of modern discovery, and then tend to pontificate from up here on the balcony about community, caring and looking out for each other.
A while ago I reached out to a friend going through some stuff. You know the drill; hope you’re doing alright, here if you need anything etc. I never heard back, but didn’t want to hassle them so I left it at that, just figuring it’s normal in this digital age for us to send words out into the ether.
A couple of months later the person pinged me out of the blue:
“Sorry it took so long to respond, can you do something for me?”
“Sure let’s catch up.” I said, feeling a visit to my favourite local café or bar coming on.
Their brief response caught me off guard. “Nah I just need you to submit a form for me. I’ll email you.”
In the first millisecond after reading their text I was slightly miffed, and thought “Oh here we go, I know why I didn’t hear from you for so long. You’re only messaging me now because you need something.”
It only took a few minutes of reflection for me to conclude that I had let both myself and my friend down. Without realising it I had placed conditions on my offer of help. It may now be months down the track but the person was only guilty of accepting what I had suggested – “help with anything”, because I had never attached my caveat to that offering; “as long as there’s something in it for me.”
From there I spiralled, cycling through all the times in my life I’d told someone that I was there for them. Was I really there, or was I just trotting out a clichéd line, subconsciously hoping they were actually fine so that I could go on living my comfortable life without interruption, safe in the knowledge that there was always some poor sod out there at least slightly worse off than me?
Maybe that’s just what we do now – over a short period of time we’ve gone from truly being with a close group of local friends and family with whom our lives interlock, to focussing on the hundreds of virtual friends we have all over the world who we don’t really know that well or care about, which in turn is causing us to lose a grip on the simple concept of friendship, and our role as a friend to another human.
Meanwhile I completed the simple task my friend had requested, and immediately went home and culled my Facebook friendship list by about a hundred – right down to the bare bones of family and close friends.
Here’s hoping that I might once again be there for you when you really need me.