Don't Ask … Just Do

Empty Words?

It is a natural human instinct to offer words of support to those in crisis. “Please let me know if there is anything I can do” is offered out of a genuine desire to be available to others, but you have to ask yourself, How many times have I ever been taken up on that offer? Certainly, the person offering such words does so with full intent of providing support, if only the recipient would ask. In the moment, the offer of assistance is acknowledged with appreciation and grace and a promise to call when the opportunity presents itself. And yet, more often than not, the call is never placed. Think about it.

Frequently, we do not know what to do to assuage someone else’s pain, not because we are indifferent or uncaring or because we did not mean it when we said “please call” but because we worry so much about doing the “right” thing (whatever that means) that we never actually get around to doing anything. And therein lies the greatest tragedy of all.

Mobilizing Support

Several months ago, a fire lieutenant was killed in the line of duty. Like so many other line-of-duty deaths, this was a senseless loss of a tremendous human being and the chasm of pain is wide and deep. The fire service, in its infinite capacity to honor, turned out in force to carry the brother home and lay him to rest in a manner befitting this great man. He truly was an outstanding person with seemingly boundless energy, and his loss will never be filled. Thousands of firefighters turned out to pay their respects, and countless individuals approached the widow and family with words of support and offers of help.

At the same time, a group of fire service wives acted. Placing themselves in the shoes of the grieving wife, they rolled up their sleeves and got involved. They looked at each other and asked, “What would I need if I was in that position?” and then they simply set about gathering those items together. Then, about a week after the funeral, when all the pomp and circumstance had subsided and the pipes had faded and almost everyone else had set about the task of finding the new normal that comes after such a loss, the wives got in their cars, drove to the home of the fallen firefighter, and presented his wife with the product of their efforts. No call was ever placed and no offer was ever made. They just did it. In that powerful moment, they demonstrated, perhaps most succinctly, the awesome and unparalleled importance of action. What amazing life-altering item did they deliver? Laundry detergent. They also delivered two commercial-sized coolers full of meals each labeled for a different day of the week, four gift baskets (one for each of the kids), two gift bags and a basket for the wife, numerous gift cards and cash, and a full summer of lawn service. As it turns out, that is exactly what the family needed, and for the first time since their father died, the children smiled.

Make the Effort

Words are important, but actions require effort, which is what makes them so much more powerful. Actions are the product of translating desire into substance. Without engagement, there can be no achievement. Time spent waiting for that phone call to come is wasted. In the end, whatever is provided will be appreciated in ways that cannot be imagined or explained. This is true in every aspect of our lives. We meet countless people who are important to us and for whom we would do anything to ease their pain or improve their lives. Too often, we cannot get out of our own way, paralyzed by protocol or fear of doing the “wrong” thing. No action, borne out of love and a servant heart, will be graded for the “rightness” of its effort.

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