Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Difference One Person Can Make

Many people need not so much a handout, but rather a hand up.

Apparently this has become the age of entitlements, with many people looking to Big Brother (aka the Federal government) for deliverance from whatever plight they find themselves in.

And many of us readily presume that’s the way it should be – whether it’s care for neglected children, unemployment assistance, alleviation of poverty, finding relief from troubled relationships, or whatever the dilemma might be. “Hey, Uncle Sam: We need help over here!”

As a result, we’re inclined to collectively shrug our shoulders and conclude, “What can I do?” Surrounded by a world filled with problems, it seems like any effort on our part to help wouldn’t amount to more than the proverbial drop of water in the ocean.

Recently, however, I met a man who happily did not take that attitude. Bruce, owner of an upscale clothing store, more than 20 years ago was approached by another man with a simple request: “I need help.”

The second man, Gary, had decided he could no longer settle for the hourly-wage, manual labor job he had. He desired to provide a better life for his family, but realized doing so would involve learning some things – including, as they used to say, how to “dress for success.” He had seen the sharp-looking men’s clothes in Bruce’s store window; one morning he mustered up the courage to go in and solicit some coaching so he could dress presentably for job interviews.

Bruce wasn’t obligated to help. Gary certainly didn’t fit the mold of his accustomed clientele. But Bruce did more than help. He offered Gary some valuable do’s and don’ts about proper attire and then, at pennies on the dollar, got him started with a wardrobe that would impress prospective employers.

Fast forward more than two decades: Gary has established a successful career as a sales executive, was able to extricate his family from a near-poverty level lifestyle, and now he’s eagerly imparting secrets of his success to others.

Bruce the clothier was just one piece in Gary’s career story, but an important piece. He saw a man eager to achieve a better life and willingly presented him with tools to help in doing just that.

I referred to Gary’s story in an earlier post. The book he’s written about his journey (which I’ve been privileged to edit) will be published soon. Suffice it to say, while millions are clamoring for the attention of the impersonal, uncaring governmental machine, each of us – like Bruce – should consider how we could make a positive contribution to the life of someone in our sphere of influence.

When Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), one reason is because when we give to benefit others, we receive the joy of knowing we’ve enhanced the life of another. Having met Bruce, I know he feels that way.

The Bible also offers this admonition: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’ – when you now have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).

Who’s within your reach right now that needs a helping hand in one way or another? While the wheels of bureaucracy continue turning exceedingly slow, you might discover an opportunity to be a one-person change agent. And to not respond might deprive you of a very special blessing.

No comments: