How to Help When Things Get Real

how to help when things get real

There’s been much made in the news about terrible things happening around the world, and rightly so. Families are displaced by wars, genocide goes unchecked in Asia and the middle east, and natural disasters cripple entire societies. When disasters like this strike, aid is organized, charities and religious groups scramble to the rescue.

But what about the smaller tragedies, those disasters that feel enormous and earth-shaking only to that one person or that handful of people you’re close to? The loss of a spouse through death or divorce, incarceration, separation from children, death of a loved one, violent crime, or even the loss of health or employment? Mental health problems can be simultaneously shaming and debilitating, with stigma driving the sufferers and their loved ones deeper into isolation.

When these things happen to someone you know, it’s hard to know what to do or what to say. The best most of us can do is politely offer help (knowing they won’t want to impose by actually asking us for anything), try to “be there” for them (whatever that means). We wish we could do more. We mean well. But we feel paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong thing, of maybe making things worse.

You can do something. It won’t change their life or make everything okay, but it also won’t be impossible for you to do, an they really will feel their burden being lightened, even if only a little. What follows are some suggestions to consider when someone you know has been through something traumatic or devastating.

All of these suggestions are just that, and you should use your own judgement to tailor these ideas to the circumstances.

Dancing hotdog
Give Hallmark the day off. Nobody really buys the schmalzy messages in overpriced gift-cards, anyway. But you’d be surprised what good a little laughter can do.

Send them something funny, something that might draw out a smile–a dancing hotdog GIF, a link to a cat video. But whatever you send, make it personal and private. Use a text message, Instagram, Facebook, whichever platform you prefer. Send one every day, or at least a few times a week. It lets them know you’re thinking about them without getting all sappy about it, and without drawing any possibly unwanted attention to their misfortune.

Logistics
Treat them to some food. Sure, it’s cliché to bring a casserole to the doorstep. But clichés are clichés for a reason. Someone who’s going through something terrible may struggle to do the basics. Modulate your strategy to suit how close you are to the person, but it might be greatly appreciated if you can help with the small stuff.

Have a load of groceries or toiletries delivered to their home.

An Uber gift card, or a parking garage membership can make all the difference, especially when someone is facing frequent hospital trips or have some other crisis that’s making transportation more complicated for them. Even if all you got them was a small pre-paid gas card, the gesture could make a big difference.

It’s easier than ever to send care packages to cover the little necessities of life. It’s both a thoughtful gesture that lets the person know they’re not alone while also relieving some of their troubles.

Shut up
Try to resist the urge to offer advice or be the shoulder to cry on, be someone to vent/rage to, be the one to offer advice. Numbness is a defense strategy that shouldn’t be trifled with, and might result in the person pushing you away–possibly even violently.

Besides, this isn’t about you and your role, or how you see yourself. Make it about them and what they need. Make yourself available and be ready to respond to their needs without needing to be asked, and without drawing attention to the generosity of your offer. Just be present and responsive to what they need.

Be present in every sense and just listen to them. It’s amazing what people say when you just sit quietly and let them express whatever they need to say at their own pace. This is harder than it sounds, so bring some imaginary duct tape to put over your mouth.

Thoughts and Prayers
Now this one kind of is about you. Pray about them. Think about them. You can tell them you’re sending them thoughts and prayers if you want to, but don’t just say it. It’s better to do it and not say it, than to say it and not do it.

Pondering their difficult situation will increase your compassion for them in a deep and genuine way. You’ll be more emotionally responsive to their needs. Side benefit: exercising your compassion in this way could even make you a better person long-term.

Life is hard, as you’ve probably figured out by now. No matter how immaculate our own choices may be, bad things will happen, even to you. If you’re paying attention to the needs of those you love, and are attentive, that builds you crucial social capital–a social savings account of sorts. You’ll build your network of emergency responders of your own, and make you better prepared to survive the encounter when death knocks on your door.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and reach your customers by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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5 Reasons to Give Experiences, Not “Stuff”

5 Reasons to Give Experiences Not Stuff

You’ve seen it year after year now–the “deals” that come tumbling into your phone notifications and email inbox. Every retailer imaginable feeding a narrative that seems to build on itself like an avalanche until it becomes a seemingly unstoppable force. That narrative: that there’s low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked, and if you miss it, well–you MISSED IT! Imagine how much worse your life will be if you don’t land that DEAL! If it feels like this message is being screamed at you, that’s only because it is–from all sides.

But let’s pause for a moment and consider this message. Is it true? How does it jibe with your experience as a consumer?

Think about last year. How much of the stuff you bought (for just a great deal!) last year is something you still use? Do you even still have any of those items? Chances are, even if you have them, you probably don’t use them. Maybe they turned out to be not what you’d hoped. Maybe the enticement of a deal got you so wound up you purchased something you found you didn’t really want. And where does it end up? In the trash? Donated to charity? Passed on to someone else?

We can all agree that giving is good, but how can you give better? How do you stop yourself from falling for the same consumerist trap every year?

Here we’ll discuss 5 reasons to stop giving “stuff” and start giving experiences instead!

Memory, not stuff, makes your identity
True, sometimes giving stuff IS giving an experience. Who doesn’t remember being a kid and tearing the wrapping paper of a hoped-for gift? Maybe it broke the next day or you played with it for years, but that moment is what you were really given. That moment is what you take with you. When you experience something, it influences your whole future–every future decision you make. The trick is that your mind tends to jettison memories of things that seem to be useless or mundane–like the disappointing gift you got from your Aunt Sally. Why hang on to that memory? The memory of receiving it is gone at almost the same moment the gift itself is discarded or put in a closet–out of sight, out of mind.

Experiences, on the other hand, remain, especially if it takes the person out of the mundane grind of daily life. Maybe it’s something they would love to do, but for some reason wouldn’t ever decide to try on their own? Maybe the experience you give them will actually help them to become a better person, or will help them achieve a goal they’ve always wanted to reach for. Giving an experience is giving them something that will stick with them, something they’ll be telling their friends about, something they might even remember on their death bed.

Giving STUFF–bad for the economy
When you give stuff, you’re playing an odd game of roulette with your giving. Maybe they’ll find that thing useful or entertaining. But you can’t always be sure. For this reason, economists have argued that gifting is actually bad for the economy: people spend good money on something for another person, which most of the time is unwanted by that other person. This evaluation passes over the social value of gifting, but the point is well taken. Aren’t we being a bit wasteful, spending money on this stuff (on sale!) that’s likely to be forgotten anyway?

Experiences don’t need storage units or landfills
Americans are drowning in stuff. The off-site storage unit business has exploded in recent decades as people find there’s not enough room in their houses-garages-attics-basements for all their STUFF. And they cling to that STUFF so dearly that they’re actually willing to take on considerable monthly rental fees just to keep it under someone else’s roof across town.

On the other end of the spectrum, regarding STUFF we throw away, that has to go somewhere. We contaminate soil and defile the natural world just so we can bury the STUFF we can’t use anymore. Maybe some of it gets recycled, but that recycling process doesn’t come without environmental cost. And let’s not forget the energy spent, the natural resources used to produce that nick-knack in the first place. And all for what? A transitory feeling of pleasure at opening a gift, at best, and a feeling of disappointment and obligation at worst. Doesn’t it make more sense to send your loved one to a concert, or give them an excuse to finally visit that museum they’ve always wanted to check out?

Everybody loves a good experience
Great experiences know no age. Young or old, everyone likes to have fun, to learn new things, to have a chance to improve themselves. We’re wired to enjoy novelty, no matter what form it takes, and no matter how young or old we are. And that novelty is far more memorable when it comes in the form of experience that delights all the senses and isn’t just another soon-to-be-forgotten shiny thing.

Experiences are easier to buy
There’s at least one person on your list who’s impossible to shop for–that person who doesn’t seem to want anything, or who already has everything they could want (that’s in your price range). Or maybe it’s just hard to tell what they would want. Buying them an experience is so much easier! Think about that difficult person on your list: do they like learning new things, eating out, getting massages, going to plays or concerts? Chances are they like at least ONE of these things! And you only need one!

On top of all this, experiences can be given year after year! Did they love that massage gift certificate they got last year? Why not give it again? Maybe you could even add on enough for them to try one of our great session enhancements or try a longer massage. Sure, you sent them to the symphony last year, but maybe they’d love to see a rock concert this year.

Giving experiences beats giving stuff for so many reasons. We could keep going, but we don’t want to keep you. Get out there and enjoy the experiences of your life. And when it’s time to gift, share those experiences with those you love.

Be good to yourself this week.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to design your logo, create social media posts and other content, or strategically develop your brand by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com