The Secret of Personal Helpfulness
Every true Christian desires to be helpful. He longs to make his life a blessing to as many people as possible. He wishes to make the world better, his neighborhood brighter and sweeter. He wants to make every life he touches, in even casual association, somewhat more beautiful.
Just how we must live if our lives would reach this ideal, it is worth while that we should think. We cannot come upon this kind of a life accidentally. We do not drift into a place and condition of great usefulness. Nothing but sincere love . . .
will make another happier,
will comfort sorrow,
will relieve loneliness,
will give courage and cheer.
You never can be of any real help to a man, if you do not care for him, and you care for him only so far as you are willing to make sacrifices to help him.
It is never by chance, therefore, that one finds oneself living a life that is full of helpfulness. Such a life comes only through a new life in Christ. That is what it means to become a Christian.
The secret of Christ, was abounding personal helpfulness. We say he gave his life for the world, and we think of the cross. But the cross was in his life from the beginning! He never had a thought or a wish for himself. He never pleased himself. Ever he was ready to give up his own comfort, his own ease, his own preferment — that another might be pleased or helped.
With this thought in mind, it will be a most profitable piece of Bible-reading to go through the Gospels, just to find how Christ treated the people he met. He was always kind, not only polite and courteous — but doing kindly, thoughtful, obliging things. His inquiry concerning every person was, "Can I do anything for you? Can I share your burden? Can I relieve you of your sufferings?"
The Good Samaritan was Christ's illustration of love, and was a picture of his own blessed life!
This is the one answer to our question. There is no way of personal helpfulness but Christ's way, and there is no other secret of attaining it, but his secret. You cannot learn it from a book of rules. It is not a system of etiquette. It is a new life — it is Christ living in the heart!
It is personal helpfulness of which we are thinking. A man may be useful in his community, may even be a public benefactor, may do much for the country — and yet may fail altogether to be a real helper of the individual lives he touches in his daily associations. A man may do much good with his money, relieving distress, founding institutions, establishing schools — and may not be a helper of man in personal ways. People will not turn to him with their personal needs.
The sorrowing know nothing of comfort ministered by him;
the baffled and perplexed do not look to him for guidance;
the tempted do not appeal to him for deliverance;
the despairing do not go to him for cheer and encouragement.
Yet, it is this personal helpfulness that means the most in the close contacts of human lives.
Jesus never gave money to anyone in need, so far as we are told. He did not pay rents for the poor, nor buy food or clothes — but he was always doing good in ways that meant far more for them than if he had helped with money. There were needs that only love and kindness could meet.
Countless people move among us these days, dying of loneliness, and starving for love. You can help them immeasurably by becoming their friend, not in any marked or unusual way, perhaps — but . . .
by doing them a single kindness,
by showing a little genuine interest in them,
by turning aside to do a little favor,
by manifesting sympathy, if they are in sorrow.
A little note of a few lines sent to a neighbor in grief, has been known to start an influence of immeasurable comfort and strength!
It is the little things of love, that count in such ministry:
the little nameless acts,
the little words of gentleness,
the little looks that tell of interest and care and sympathy.
Life is hard for many people, and nothing is more needed continually than encouragement and cheer!
There are men who never do anything great in their lives, and yet they make it sunnier all around them, and make all who know them happier, nobler, stronger.
There are women, overburdened themselves perhaps — but so thoughtful, so sympathetic, so obliging, so full of little kindnesses — that they make the spot of the world in which they live, more like Heaven!
How can we learn this lesson of personal helpfulness? It is not merely a matter of congeniality of disposition, or a matter of natural temperament. Anyone can learn it — if he takes Christ for his teacher. Then self must be displaced in thought and purpose and affection. If love fills the heart — then every expression of the life radiates helpfulness.
A young woman, speaking of the way different people had been a comfort to her in a great sorrow, said, "I wish some people knew just how much their faces can comfort others." Then she told of an old gentleman she sometimes sat beside in the street car. He did not know her — but she was always helped by just being near to him and seeing his face.
There is a great deal of this unconscious helpfulness in the world. Indeed, many of the best things we do — we do without knowing we are doing them. If we are full of love, we will be helping others wherever we go; and the things we do not plan to do when we go out in the morning, will be the divinest things of the whole day.
Not only is the life of personal helpfulness most worthwhile in the measure of good it does, in its influence upon others — but no other life brings back to itself such rewards of peace, of strength, of comfort, of joy. Whatever of love you give to another, you have not really given away — you have it still in yourself in larger measure than before! Then, no gain one gets in this world is equal to the love of hearts, which one receives from those one serves in unselfish love.