The Hierarchy of Helping

Is there a hierarchy to helping? Not everyone is cut out to sell everything they own and take up residence in a war zone or a remote village without running water. I applaud and respect the people who do it—they are an inspiration. But to be completely honest, they are also sometimes intimidating. After reading Three Cups of Tea, I felt at once rejuvenated to get out there and make a difference and yet, depressed that in comparison to someone like Greg Mortenson, I haven’t done squat and probably never will.

But it’s important to fight that lethargy. It’s not about comparison. There are all kinds of ways to be of use in this world. Maybe you coach kids’ soccer. Maybe you spend a couple of hours a week at a local school helping kids, one-on-one, learn to read better. Paint the walls of a children’s hospital’s examination rooms with cheerful beach scenes or take dinner to a single mom who works long hours.

Start where you are. Who says it has to be organized volunteering? You have a brain. Use it. If there is a hierarchy to helping, I guess we should remember that the base of the triangle is the foundation of it all. I think it all matters. Do you?


4 comments on “The Hierarchy of Helping

  1. There is an infinite amount of needs out there that must be met. There is something for people of all abilities and levels of commitment. A person who is willing to recognize a need and do something about it even if it is “behind the scenes” (and they know they may receive little or no recognition) is a true volunteer. Who knows, you may be teaching the next Mother Teresa to read or to vaccinating the next “Greg Mortenson”. We may never know the layers of nameless “volunteerism” that enabled some of the most famous volunteers to do what they did. It definitely all matters.

  2. My volunteering pales greatly in comparison to the author and Greg Mortenson but I try to do my little part. I try to coach less fortunate children in a non-profit soccer club and lead cub scouts in cleaning up the beaches, collecting food to feed the hungry, and doing goodwill to others. It’s not much but I guess every little bit helps.

  3. I sometimes remember another angle of volunteering. I’ve been helped by perfect strangers. I was 10 years old when Hurricane Hugo devastated Charleston. It was estimated about 5 feet of water was in our Isle of Palms home – judged by the water line on the walls.

    My family alone received a lot of help. Friends of the family let us live in their home for 2 weeks. They didn’t have electricity, and we all chipped in and purchased a generator. But then help came in other forms – from people we didn’t know….clean water, donated furniture, gift certificates for new clothes. I still have a Christmas tree ornament that a school in another state made for our 5th grade class.


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