They say that lottery winners are inundated with requests for help. Literally hundreds or thousands of e-mails, phone calls, appeals on Facebook or notes in the mail. Some people have to go into hiding; others erect a stony faced defence. Some of the requests are from con artists or crazies but most, it seems, are genuine, people who are desperate and in need and don’t understand why some people should have all the good luck while they have all the bad.
As an alternative to prayer, asking money from complete strangers probably seems like a reasonable thing to do.
Of course, you don’t have to be a lottery winner to feel overwhelmed with pleas for help. Rich people — I’m told by the few I know — get similar requests all the time. Not all at once but in a steady stream. Those who are rich enough and human enough generally set up foundations or give a significant amount of their money to charity, not to deal with individual requests but to set up support systems or to address the underlying causes — poverty, illness, drug addition, poor education — that lie at the root these problems. You know, the kinds of things civilized states generally deal with. The other rich people crow about how deserving they are and say screw you to the rest. Sadly, there is no hell to consign them to.
But most of us aren’t rich; a lot are just scraping by. What can average person do? We don’t have time and energy (let alone money) to answer all the appeals. And there are plenty to answer. Requests for money to save the children of Nepal — I got three of those today — or, more locally, to buy tickets to an event to stop cyber bullying or help a family who was burnt out of their apartment. It seems endless.
And that doesn’t even count the immediate personal things, like helping friends dealing with illness or who have fallen on hard times for no reason other than the struggles of trying to live.
Sometimes it seems so easy just to ignore it — especially the silent appeals, the requests that aren’t really requests. We all know people who suffer in silence and sometimes we think they want to be left alone. They don’t. But they may be embarrassed or they may be proud or they may be afraid. That’s when it is up to us to go that one extra step.
No is an easy word to say. Yes isn’t much harder. So, if you have a friend of family member in need of help, reach out. It can be as simple as a phone call or a visit, a night out or a night away from their troubles, a little cash if that’s what it takes or a casserole. Kind words — however clumsily delivered — are like gold. That family that got burnt out — surely you have something in your closet or garage they could use. Or cash — skip coffee out for a week and you’d be surprised. Give it locally or give it to the children of Nepal. Volunteering at the food bank cuts both ways — you help but you also learn to be thankful for what you have.
Not everyone has a few dollars kicking around. Yet, I’ve often seen those with little be the most generous of all — with their time, their energy, their love and, most of all, their kindness. I can think of a few billionaires who could learn about life from them.
But that’s ten minutes.