The Perfect Answer
“What can I do; how can I help?”
We often ask this question as casually as we ask, “How are you?”
Although the intent is pure, it’s a terribly imperfect question. I learned last week that it takes the perfect answer to realize this imperfection. It will change the way I ask this question for the rest of my life.
My wife and I met an old friend a few weeks ago. Her name is Oksana. We met several years ago on a cruise. This time, she was wearing a mask, but you could see and feel her radiant smile. You could see her heart in her eyes.
“Oksana, how are you?”
She immediately lied to us and told us we looked great. After several minutes of exchanging pleasantries, I asked, “Can you remind me where you’re from?” She said, “I’m from Ukraine, the eastern part of the country.” The smile didn’t leave her eyes. Her head was held high.
Instinctively I asked, “Your family, your friends. What can we do? How can we help?” I didn’t think before asking the question. What if she had answered, “We’re not safe. We need food, clothing, a safe place to live and help creating new lives. Can you help us?” I can pray. I can send clothes or food. I’d be glad to chat about doing more. But what was I prepared to do beyond that?
Oksana gave the perfect answer. She said, “Help people close to you, and you will be helping people close to us. There is pain and tragedy everywhere. Do what you can to help others, and they are more likely to help others, and so on.”
Wow. I’ll never ask that question the same way again.
Oksana helped me see more clearly that helping make the world a better place starts next door. It starts with my country, my city, my neighborhood, and my family. It starts with me. If I’m living a thankful, meaningful life in service that adds value to the human condition, my mission starts every day, the moment my feet hit the floor.
Oksana’s perfect answer grounded me. Beginning today, I don’t feel helplessly unable to help people like Oksana. My family will serve hers more completely and faithfully…from our own backyard.