Sunday, January 4, 2015

"I Wish I Could Do More"

Over the course of my lifetime, I have said "I wish I could do more" more than I wish I ever had. There were times I had actually done something, but didn't feel like there was anything else I could do. Other times, all I felt I could do was post (in the age of posting) about a person's need, and hope that someone else could/would act.

Looking back, I can plainly see how I could have done more - if only I had been willing and/or if I had been more willing to see how much the person was in need. Instead, I was focused on myself. Could I have spared a few more dollars? Could I have spared more time? Could I have spared more effort? The answer to all of these questions is a very hard YES.

So then cancer arrives 2 1/2 years ago, and what happens? I have extended myself to others more than I ever have, with that much less to spare. I also am on the receiving end of countless "I wish I could do more"s.

There have even been times that I have responded to that statement, asking if the person just felt they couldn't do more, or if they just didn't know what "more" was possible, and have received nothing in response. Well, not nothing, if you count silence.

I have come to realize that "I wish I could do more" didn't do much more than make ME feel better. And it made it SOUND like I cared, and was paying attention, when all it took was a few seconds to say, and then I was back to focusing on my life. In saying it, it was like a pseudo-version of doing more.

Is this going to be the case for all people, and in all circumstances? Was it true for me every time? No. But I would be willing to bet that statement has a lot more to do with the person saying it than the person they are saying it to.

There unfortunately are a lot of people in need these days for a myriad of reasons, and people walking around saying they wish they could do more isn't helpful to the bigger problem/picture. While I can't speak for others in need, I can speak for myself.

There are times people who say they wish they could do more for me post once about something, and then never do it again, saying they wish they could do more. Well. If I was going to be in their face about it, I would tell them they could do more.

There are times I wish I could say what I am really thinking and wanting to say, but I am afraid of coming off in the wrong way, and offending someone I would never want to offend. I had not wanted to be holding back. After my diagnosis and surgery, I was determined not to give a damn about what others thought about what I said. Sadly, once I "returned" to the world, that feeling didn't go away, but it faded.

If I alienate people around me, then what am I going to do? The help I receive is minimal, as it is. If I piss people off, and make them uncomfortable, then they will be even less likely to help.

There were some people in my life that no longer are. I came to realize that I had nothing to lose by losing their presence in my life. They weren't giving me anything but frustration and heartache. I was actually gaining something by backing away.

It is not that people should only be in my life to "give" me something, but when all I am getting is not helpful, and even hurtful, to me, then that is where there is a problem.  I share this because there was freedom in realizing that I could express myself in a way that wouldn't be liked by the other because there was nothing I feared losing.

In much the same way, I am finding that the longer I deal with this, the more free I feel to say things that might ruffle feathers. I am barely getting help any way, so what I am risking by saying the things I really want to say? Of course, by blogging it, instead of speaking it directly to the person, I am taking the "easy" way out. The way I am looking at it at the moment is that if a person needs to see this, they will. And, if they truly are a person who cares about me, discomfort or not, they will understand.

I am not writing what I write to judge anyone. I am not writing what I write to say anyone is a bad person. I am not writing what I write in anger - or to anger or upset anyone. If anything, in regard to things I share, I DO understand at least part of what some may experience, and it is my hope that perhaps I will offer some perspective that will in some way be helpful.

People will get it, or they won't. And maybe I will come off wrong in some way. However, this blog post has been gnawing at me for a while now, and I cannot let it go. That tells me I am supposed to be writing it.


Do you wish you could do more for me (or anyone you care about)? Be honest, and ask yourself if you are WILLING to do more. That is really the place to start. If you are willing to do more, then you need to find out how to do more. If it is not clear what you can do, ASK the person.

You may think that your offer to do XX is great, but if it is not helpful to the other person, don't be offended if they decline. You wouldn't want help forced upon you, either, especially if the help could cause more issues. You may think that the fact that you invested your energy in doing something that seemed helpful was, but if you thought of it, there is a good chance someone else has, and it may also not be as helpful as you think.

If you really want to help someone, work with them, and their needs. Work with what works for them. If they really need money, then work with them to find a way to get money. Give $1. Stretch. Give $10. Get others to do the same. Don't be easy on them. If it was you, or them, in need, I guarantee you they would want others doing what you are doing.

Money is often a dirty word. But the fact is there are just some things that REQUIRE money to live. Certain things cannot be bartered or traded for thank yous or good looks. I can't tell you how often I am aware of being judged because - heaven forbid - I am asking for money.

Even if you don't do anything, or anything more than that one thing, consider at least being generous in spirit and in how you look at a person needing help. As much as you may not think it, you never know what could one day happen to you. And if you are anything like me, you will see how some things may come back to haunt.

No one ever plans to stand in a place like I am in. I certainly didn't.

The last thought I will leave you is that if you "wish" you could do more, odds are you can. Not only can you, but whatever that thing is that you do that the person really needed could have a bigger impact than you might imagine.

The question really is, will you make the effort to do more?

You have to be more willing to do something about the other person's discomfort than about what it takes to preserve your own comfort. I can practically guarantee you the trade off is not an equal one. The person in need will likely value what you offer more than you will feel affected by what you have "given up." I say it this way because that is the way it will feel for some, like they have given something up, and that is why they don't want to do it. If you can think about it in a different way, maybe you will feel differently about helping the next person who asks for it.

These are just pieces of a puzzle. The whys will vary from person to person. The justifications will all make sense and sound good. We are exceptional when it comes to the things that have to do with ourselves and our ego. Maybe it is all a part of our survival mechanism. We have to believe the things we do for us to "survive" (feel accepted, and other things, too).

Think about this, though, as you are trying to help your ego survive, there is someone out there who is trying desperately to truly survive, and you saying, "I wish I could do more" isn't going to do anything to help anyone but you. Others might put a smile on their face, and try to make you feel better as a result, but then it becomes more about you, doesn't it?

Some have said that if you say something like "to be honest..." you aren't likely to be honest. In marketing if you say you are "exceptional" at something it isn't the same as showing how exceptional you are.

"Funny" how words often mean something different than we intend. What does it really mean when you say you wish you could do more? And have you really even done anything (of true personal value) for the person in need in the first place, or have you just done something to make yourself feel better?

It doesn't matter what the answer is. There is is no test, and no one needs to know the answer but you. So do yourself a favor, and at least be honest about what you think you are doing/really doing. You never know when it might make a difference for someone you care about.

PS if you haven't yet voted for my blog today, would you please? I could win a much needed $1000, but I need votes to get there. The contest only runs until Jan 15, and you could potentially give me 2 votes each remaining day between Facebook and Twitter. Thank you. http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest?badge=105


  1. "Wish vs Willing" I appreciate how you distinguished between the two. My cousin was diagnosed with cancer and as I'm reading your post I'm wondering "what can I do?" "What am I willing to do?" and "What does he need?" AND - where is the intersection between those three questions. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comment Lisa. It is exactly the kind of impact I would have liked to have as a result of writing this post. Your cousin is fortunate to have you in the picture. It is no easy "ride."

  2. Elizabeth, you couldn't be more right about how people you know or loved ones CAN do more to help someone in need like yourself. I don't believe I have ever told someone I wish I could do more, but I sure have thought how I could have done more for a neighbor or a friend or how I could have sent a card or a meal to a family in need. It has been planted in my heart to be a servant to those less fortunate, but like many, it's not easy to find the time to reach out. We live in a world that keeps us too busy to take care of others when we barely have enough time to care for our own family. I appreciate you writing what you are feeling, because must people in your condition will not speak out. I am unable to give money at this time, but I do want to offer a prayer for your life and intercede for a healing in your body. I don't know your spiritual background, but I rely on God for answers in every situation in my life.

    1. Thanks Aletha. Prayers of support and healing are always welcome. I will say, in regard to what you posted, that while people are quite busy, and I understand, I think it is often greatly underestimated how even the seemingly littlest thing can make a difference for a person. It doesn't always have to mean a large investment in time or in money to make a difference. It could mean 1 minute of time or $1 in money. Thanks for your visit and comment.