Archive for the ‘Unaware’ Category

Service of “Can I Do Anything For You?”

Monday, January 29th, 2024

When my friend suggested the idea for this post so many other examples popped into my head.

She texted, “‘Can I do anything for you?’ coming from friends seems to be a throwaway comment when someone is sick or recovering from surgery–empty words when they do nothing if there is not anything you need immediately.”

Such friends, especially neighbors, remind me of a guest firmly planted in his/her chair at the dinner table who asks, “Need any help?” and doesn’t budge to clear so much as a matchstick. [I know: Some don’t want help. I’m not talking about them.]

My friend recalled being extremely ill when she was young with an infant at home and too shy, when posed that question, to ask for help which, she thinks, is why she’s especially sensitive when temporarily disabled these days. She told an able-bodied dog walking neighbor in her apartment building who joined the “can I do anything?” chorus that she craved a cupcake from a bakery down the street, as a test. She really didn’t need one.

She wrote: “I don’t mean to sound like I am keeping score but like you I am always thinking about what I can do for others -not expecting something in return. But why ask that question if you don’t really mean it? The locals also stopped even checking in!”

I know what she means. When my broken foot was at first ensconced in a boot, I wasn’t supposed to walk more than three blocks and I exceeded that restriction just to get to the office. So once there, I didn’t move much. The only person who ever asked if I needed anything when she’d head out for lunch or to run an errand was a young temp assistant. Were my office neighbors afraid I’d stiff them the cost of a soda or sandwich or were they simply oblivious?

Not all neighbors are passive, insensitive, or unconscious. This happened to the parents of another friend. They had recently moved to an apartment in Florida from their home in upstate New York when her dad became terminally ill. A neighbor would ring her bell on the way to a grocery store asking for her list. And they knew the schedule she followed to rotate her husband’s position in bed so he wouldn’t get bedsores. She was petite and needed help. One of the neighbors was at her door several times every day, on the dot, without being asked.

Why do we utter “can I do anything for you?” the way we say, “how are you?” without listening to the answer or planning to address the response with action?

Service of Being Blind to Poverty

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

I consider myself observant, empathetic and sensitive but unintentionally I’ve been at fault when it comes to being blind to poverty. Here’s just one of many instances that still haunt me. I was planning a visit to a city for business before Yelp and Google existed and asked a couple what their favorite restaurant was as I wanted to invite them for dinner. They said diets prevented them from going out to eat which is why they didn’t have a favorite. I later learned that they didn’t go out because they were in dire financial straits.

I had a college roommate whose family was affluent. She stood on every picket line and joined any and all protests and I felt she had real compassion for the less fortunate. Yet she didn’t realize that the reason one of our dorm members didn’t eat on Sunday night when the dining room was closed was because she didn’t have the money for even a hotdog.

Ivanka Trump is only the latest wealthy high profile person to pontificate and share advice in a book “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.” The subject is life/work balance. Apart from the reviews that trashed the book, I’m not rushing out to buy copies for friends who are stretched to the limit juggling jobs, kids and board positions who don’t work for their fathers and whose excellent salaries don’t reach the ankles of Ms. Trump’s income and the support it affords. In addition to paying for the best nanny care, should she want cooks and social secretaries to keep track of play dates and after school activities, all would be available at the snap of her smartphone. My friends and colleagues could teach Ms. Trump a thing or three. She would have done better interviewing them for her book.

Sheryl Sandberg’s second book, “Option B,” is about dealing with loss. The Facebook COO’s husband died suddenly leaving her to raise young children alone. Her grief is poignant and her advice heartfelt and well meant, I’m sure, and writing about her pain was no doubt therapeutic. I saw a snippet of an interview with her on “60 Minutes.” Nevertheless as I heard her speak this jumped to mind: Can she fathom the circumstance of a poor widow with an hourly part-time job faced with losing her home, with no access to childcare and with insufficient resources to think past cobbling together something for the kids to eat tonight? Would a high powered technology executive’s thoughts resonate with those caught up in survival mode with little if any time to grieve, console the children or even think?

Have you been inadvertently poverty blind? Have you observed instances of such blindness?

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz