In the course of my life, I have found that during the times when I am most down and troubled, the surest and quickest path to recovering myself is through service. Reaching out to another removes me from my situation, helps me find my humanity and divinity, and brings inexpressible joy that pushes me on toward another day.
There have been times that were so dark, I could not think to serve. Thankfully, those around me were wise enough to ask me for service. This is an important thing to remember when you see others suffering. You may serve them best by asking for their assistance and helping to rescue them, even briefly, from their own trials. It's a wonderfully self-replenishing cycle where we frail humans push ourselves forward by assisting and asking for assistance.
The wonderful thing about this is that you don't even need to be in full-blown, red alert crisis, or see someone in crisis to put it into motion. There are other times in life when this practice can be beneficial: The elderly who sometimes feel their usefulness is all behind them. Or, the disabled or shut-in who feels guilt for being served. Or, the person who has made really bad choices in the past and has been told they are just plain bad and feels that they are beyond redemption. Finally, the abused wife or child.
It is an empowering thing to reach out to another human being. By asking for help, you may be lifting another person out of her own misery for a time and strengthening her before she re-enters her situation.
When I was living in upstate New York and going through a divorce, my husband moved all of our money into an account he shared with his grandmother. I had four children in my care. It took many years in court to win any kind of support. It was the end of a 17-year extremely oppressive marriage. I had been emotionally beaten to a pulp. I was very unsure of myself. I had a restraining order due to some pretty hefty threats to me and my children. I was fairly depleted, and often felt hopeless and guilty.
However, I had a very wise clergyman who asked me to serve the elderly in my congregation by driving them to church in Toronto once a month. Here I am going to school full-time, working part-time, trying to put myself and my life back together, and he gave me this assignment.
Others, through their love and kindness, handled me with the utmost tenderness and care. As nice as that was, in my state, I took it to mean they didn't think me capable of handling anything. On the other side of the coin, when clergy gave me this assignment, my first thought was, "Wow, he believes I can handle this. I must be doing alright!" The trip was a personal highlight for many months. It started me back on the road to believing in myself and my abilities.
The one caveat I would add to this much-treasured bit of advice is that if you are the one struggling, try not to take on a huge commitment. Small services will lead to a lower-stress recovery. If you are trying to help another in darkness, try to suggest or ask for small bits of service, not anything too big or taxing.
Remember that kindness is not only shown by serving, but in asking for service and showing the giver you believe in her abilities to help you.