Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Friend in Need...


Last week I witnessed the desperation of a friend and her husband as they struggled to find a suitable place after having been evicted by their landlords.  They were particularly distraught as they had moved to the house just six months before and did not anticipate this early move.  It turned out that the owners needed the place for purposes they had not previously contemplated and gave their tenants notice, just 3 months after they had moved in.  Most of us would have moved at some time in our lives; it’s fair to say that it’s a stressful event, not one to be entertained with frequency. 

In life we are often faced with situations that upset our equilibrium, due to no fault of our own.  We don’t want to live like nomads for in order for us to grow and thrive we want our basic needs met and we crave stability. We exist within an environment over which we have no control and we have to weather storms that come our way.  It can be difficult and unsettling but bear in mind that though the storms of life may blow away some seeds, it cannot blow away all the seeds. 

The inspiration for this blog is not my friends’ struggle to find a place but the treatment they received from people who all along pretended to care.  Both of them work independently with individuals who are known to be extremely wealthy.  These individuals were well aware of their plight and worries about their potential homelessness and in some cases discussed the situation with them, prayed with them and in a couple of instances offered to provide the required funds to help them secure a place.  My friends struggled to find a suitable place and in their hour of need they were left stranded as all promises dissipated.  People pretended to forget, others gave excuses while others offered more prayers; none of them came forward with the practical help needed, despite their insane level of wealth. My solitary spare room was inadequate but I offered it to them.  Thankfully they have now found a suitable place.

Is this the true nature of man with money?  How many of us reach out to others who are in dire need, not because of carelessness but because of circumstances?  The Jamaican proverb: Rain ah fall but dutty tough (It is raining but the dirt is still tough – some have it hard while others are bathing in prosperity) describes it well. Are you like the “friend” who prays for a blessing when really you should be that blessing?  There is a saying “He who shares the joy in what he’s grown spreads joy abroad and doubles his own”.  Augusta Carter puts it this way:  “You don’t have a garden just for yourself; you have it to share”.  Are you friendly with people only when it is comfortable to do so?  There is another appropriate Jamaican proverb which says “some people know you when ah moonshine but ah dark nite dem shake dem fire tik inna yu feace” (people will associate with you while you are prospering but they pretend they don’t know you during the hard times).  

There is no point offering to pray for someone who says to you, “I am hungry”.  What the person needs is food, not empty gestures.  A place of honour on an “Employee of the Week” board does not help an employee if he/she doesn’t know how the rent will be paid because they can’t make ends meet.  They need a raise, a promotion, training or something that can enable them to earn more.  Be real!  You wouldn’t give your child a stone if he asks you for bread (Holy Bible, St Matthew: 7 & St Luke: 11).  It is great to have things, but never allow things to have you.  We are not meant to be collectors in life, we are better off being channels.  Be a channel for change, a channel for peace, joy, love.

In business too there are those who come like wolf in sheep clothing, offering to help when really all they want to do is help themselves.  I was recently told that a particular business associate was trying to find me in my office and had asked that I return his call.  When I called I quickly uncovered the plot and found that he was offering the same marketing package he had sold us the year before and which he was well aware had yielded no returns on investment.  Would it not have been better if he had said, “since our marketing effort last year was not very fruitful, can we offer you a free package this year, or could we offer you a commission-only package this year”?  There was absolutely no concern about the fact that we paid him several hundred pounds months before; he had simply come for more.  Some of your business associates will try to sell you their products or services to “help” your business even when you tell them you are struggling; yet they will never consider buying your product/service even when it could be useful to them. Business owners often know quite early if a product will benefit their business but too often we allow ourselves to be are conned or blackmailed into buying into a dream that ultimately fails to be realised.

In the workplace, how many of us pay the bare minimum when really we could add a few perks?  How many of us make promises to our employees – if the company achieves this, we will do that... but fail to follow through?  How many of us, like the so called friends in this story, find excuses when it matters most?  None of us is born to win, or lose... we are born to choose. How do we use our power to choose to impact the lives of others?  Too often “the teeth are shining, but is the heart?” (Congolese Proverb). How can I find happiness if only I am able to prosper? What’s the point of climbing to the top if when I get there it’s only me who’s there; how can I alone have a party?  As you take stock of your many possessions just remember - the world out there is bigger than the one in here.  Good intentions don’t bring change; actions do.  By helping someone to rise does not mean that you have to fall.

There are many who will offer no assistance to others unless they can see tangible benefits to themselves.  There is no need to tie getting to your giving; it’s automatic! You’ll get it back when word gets around of how good your business ethics are.  Here’s what I do:  I give discounts, I do some work for free, I involve the client in the process, I work during unsociable hours to complete urgent tasks, I deliver professionally completed work within agreed timescales and I follow up to see if the client is happy with or has benefitted from the work I produced. Where necessary I endeavour to remedy situations within reason.  You don’t have to be the cheapest around town; you just need to treat people well and let them realise that you are not just after their money. 

Let us reflect on our actions and inaction:  Are we responsive to the needs of others?  Are we empowering people to grow and thrive?  Ultimately all of us want the same things in life; a friend in need is a friend indeed. The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm (Swedish proverb).  Can you help someone, even if they don’t have the courage to ask? There is a French proverb: “à cœur vaillant rien d’impossible” nothing is impossible to a willing heart.

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