It’s hard asking for help. It’s humbling admitting that we aren’t 100% self-sufficient at any given moment day or night. It’s another opportunity to compare ourselves to others, perhaps even denying someone else the help we could so easily give.
We’ve talked about donors here before, right? Those teachers who come along to test us, show us who we are and give us the tools/lessons we need to complete an impending quest. We should always be our own donors first, but surely there’s room to help others.
Shouldn’t we be considerate of others’ stories? Shouldn’t we reward the kindness we find? Shouldn’t we be encouraging everyone to be good to one another?
Good, Modern Manners
Some people don’t like the idea of manners. They think it’s a kind of censorship, an outdated lame-ism like the ones I will always roll my eyes at. I’ve always seen it more as contextualizing.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the blogs I follow are written by women who can keep up with the best sailors in terms of profanity and shots. I’m talking: caring about someone else’s backstory, an open-mindedness about all the things you don’t know happened to a person that lead them to cross your path. Most swearing on blogs is to help everyone know the blog’s context so you can find the right one for you to follow.
In fairy tales, manners tell you if someone is worth your time and your help. There are so many stories that hinge on how a main character treats a donor, kindness gets you everywhere while cruelty/indifference/apathy usually lands you in some sort of curse or just dead-dead-deadski. Sometimes you get an apple snatched away and your hand slapped by the tree from whence you plucked it because you forgot where you aren’t.
Helpers Helping Helpers
What’s really interesting about stories that start with kindness rewarded is how many of those rewarded are wandering soldiers. They’re on their own which means peacetime unemployment and — rather than cause trouble or turn to mercenary work — they have little to no second thoughts about sharing what little they have with strangers. That’s a far cry from a spoiled prince who won’t let a beggar sleep in a lowly barn.
Don’t even get me started on sweet young girls in the middle of the woods and all alone who share their measly crumbs and are sent home spouting gold coins with every word and their sisters who … really wish the donors had just finished them off. The old stories suggest that kindness isn’t just about being virtuous for virtue’s sake, but that adding a little something to someone else’s life comes right back to you (even if only as the warm fuzzy feels of feeling like a decent human being).
Now, what fairy tale donors have that we don’t is a quick and easy and yet somehow 100% foolproof assessment system for discovering someone’s status as virtuous … or not. We shouldn’t go out testing people because that would be super judgy and weird, and you shouldn’t go handing out tests people no longer study for anyway. Oh, did you not know Virtue used to be taught in schools?
Mister Rogers’ Mother
The man who was a neighbor to us all had a mother who told him, when he saw upsetting events on television, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.” She encouraged him to seek out those who help, helped him to curb his attention on the good in the world. That practice followed him his whole life as a minister on PBS.
We all used to be taught virtue. Sure, we still learn please and thank you (always mind your Ps and Qs, after all), and punctuality and perfect attendance get their pins in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Yet treating everyone around us well has become more of a plot point in the stories of children’s programs and wholesome family entertainment, than a valuable resource in a society so much more focused on results than process.
It wasn’t always this way, but then every school used to require morning prayer. So, you can imagine how it was that Virtue was the proverbial baby in the bathwater when public schools were taking their first steps toward “respecting” the religious freedom of students. Can you maybe a picture your place in the conversation on kindness?
Are You Helping or Hindering?
“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll
The world is full of things that are 100% out of our hands, but that’s only 100% of 10% of your own life. That other 90% of your life is 100% of your perspective and thoughts and words and actions. What are you going to do with it?
Will you keep an eye out for chances to help people whose stories you don’t know and hope they pay it forward? Will you find a way to help someone who you already know to be kind or show them appreciation/thanks they aren’t getting? Will you keep an eye out for helpers to point others to for inspiration or try to live in a way that a mother may tell her child to look to you as an example?