This call held some pretty emotional moments. Just a few days earlier, a devastating tornado had ripped through Arkansas, not four miles from where they live. She described the wreckage. Houses were sitting on the interstate. People had lost everything in the blink of an eye. She wanted to do something, and her opportunity arrived on angel’s wings.
Friends of hers called and said they were loading up their suburban again and driving into the heart of the disaster with perishable goods and clothing after the police had let them through the day before. In a spurt of spring cleaning weeks ago, she’d dumped out tons of clothes and shoes from her closet, but she hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with them. Thoughts of a garage sale disappeared. God had a purpose for those clothes. They were supposed to be my sister’s way of helping those people in need, neighbors really, when you think of it. What’s four miles? This was the first time we started crying on the phone with each other, feeling their loss in our way and our own fragile love for them.
Happiness is helping others in big need.
Then we talked about a friend of hers in her early thirties who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, my sister was wondering what she could do. Fortunately, sometimes all we need to do is ask someone who’s gone through it. She talked to a colleague who had gone through a mastectomy like her friend was doing and suggested the best gift she could give was an electric toothbrush since it’s hard to lift one’s arms after surgery. My sister said, “Why don’t they tell you things like this?” Well, if you’re reading it and ever have a friend diagnosed, perhaps you’ll remember that helping someone in big need can sometimes come down to a simple toothbrush.
Or used clothes.
There’s a funny feeling when you help others in big need. It’s like an Oreo. There’s this white side that’s filled with the happiness that you could help. But there’s also this other dark side that hurts and makes you feel…a heck of a lot. When I was a hospice volunteer, I felt those two sides acutely when I came off my shift. I might have been with someone who was dying, the only person by their bedside, and I was happy they weren’t alone. But I bled that they were alone except for me.
Except for me. How often do we say our help isn’t enough? Or that someone’s need is far too big for us to fill? We’re only one person, right?
Well, we are all connected, and one thing hospice taught me is that I may never talk to the person I was sitting by who would die, but I could love them in that moment for a lifetime. That ultimate connection always made me happy even as I wiped tears from my eyes as I drove home.
So when someone needs big help, remember that there’s happiness waiting for you. The happiness of stepping up to the plate when others may fear the shadow. The happiness of knowing you are making a difference in that person’s life. The happiness of knowing every bit we give counts.
And do you know why?
Because it’s from our hearts, often mixed with a few precious tears.
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