Saturday, September 03, 2016

How to be really helpful

I read this story in the Readers' Digest magazine 20 years ago.

The husband passed away suddenly. The young widow had a difficult time dealing with the unexpected situation. She had to make arrangements for the funeral and receive many friends offering their condolences. She also had to take care of the young children.

A neighbor, whom she did not know well, came over with a box containing shoe polish and brush. He sat down quietly at the door and spent a few hours polishing all the shoes that were left at the front door. On completing his task, he briefly offered his condolences to the widow and left.

The widow was moved by his thoughtfulness. He knew how he could be really helpful. At the funeral, all the shoes were polished and shined. In the hussle and bussle, who would have thought about looking smart at the funeral?

The neighbor did not ask the widow how he could help. He knew how to be really useful. He did not interrupt the widow who was busy taking care of many other matters.

I often had people interrupting me when I was extremely busy asking for an answer to an unimportant issue. They could have found the answer on their own, by exercise initiative. Instead, they expect answer from me "out of the blue". They did not realize that I had to spend time to understand the issue before giving my answer. And my answer would probably be worse that the answer that they could have got on their own.

We need people to exercise initiative, and not wait for instruction all the time.

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