Helping others is a natural part of living. While it may appear as natural only for human species, I am not so sure about that. Wounded animal in a herd is cared for by the rest. Plants grow in ways that sustain each other through a well-balanced eco-system. There is a poem in the literature in Tamil (an ancient language from southern India) that captures this spirit of help, being an aspect of nature:
The water that is channeled to irrigate the rice field also feeds the green grass on its path, just as the rain which showers the needy along with every one else! * — Naladiar
The above brings up an important question: Whom should I help? Generally this question is answered by stating, “I help those who can help me in return”. In the minimum I wish to be acknowledged for the help that I offer. Here are two more poems the Tamil literature that offer two different perspectives!
Those who genuinely recognize the help that is received will consider it as huge, even if it is miniscular in nature** – Thirukural.
Do not despair if your help is acknowledged or not! The water that is fed to the roots of the coconut tree shows up as results (in the form of coconuts) at far heights at the top of the slender and tall coconut tree.* — Naladiar
Help is not a matter of significance to those that offer help, but for those who receive and benefit from such help. Help may not always be visible in its immediate impact. On the other hand doing the right thing for the moment, to the best of one’s ability without expectations may be the best form of help. In this case, the help is not seen as a favor to some one else. Instead help is seen as the duty to be carried out at any moment as the situation warrants. This manner of helping others does not carry the baggage of obligation for those who receive the help, nor does it create expectations on those who “help” now and feel bitter later on, since their expectations are not full filled.
Very often helping those whom we do not know through social service and volunteering appears easier to do, since the expectations – return of favor – is minimal. But, it requires generosity – an open heart – to help those whom we do not know or may never see or meet in person. On the other hand helping those in need in our immediate circles, like the elders in the family, disabled children and sick become a chore and a burden in due course. Accepting help or seeking help among friends may be avoided due to a fear of being perceived as “dependent”. Good people with noble intentions often struggle with these aspects of helping each other. Much of this stress can be diminished on the helper as well as those who need help, if “help” can be seen as strict and rigorous execution of one’s duty!
Carry out the course of action proper for the moment (Karma), not to their consequences or effects (results). Your motive should not be the results of your action, nor should you remain attached to inaction B.G. 2. 47
What is “duty” and how to execute them relentlessly is an essential aspect of Spirituality in Practice! I came across the following situation that illustrated this principle vividly:
There was an unexpected complication during one of my international travels, since my needed papers were not in order. A very good friend jumped in and helped me to cut through the red tape, which otherwise would have ruined much of my travel plans! I was immensely thankful to my friend for this help in need. He quietly asked me, “Do you take shower everyday?” Much surprised at this question, I answered “yes”. Then he asked me, “Do you thank the soap after your shower?” I replied, “Not really!” My friend continued, “Then why do you thank me so much? Just as it is the nature for the soap to clean you at your time of need, it my duty to follow-up as needed at this time. My efforts might or might not have paid off. You may or may not have been helped. All I could do was my duty”.