#23. Offer to help out for a few hours a week with an older or infirm neighbor or family member

IDEA #23. Offer to help out for a few hours a week with an older or infirm neighbor or family member

Sometimes pitching in when a neighbor or family member needs assistance is harder than volunteering “in the field.” When an established friendly or loving relationship becomes a matter of caretaking there needs to be space and a chance for the helper to process the experience; in a world with a graying and increasingly dependent population, this is true for people of all ages.

But often there is no kind of service more valuable than helping out someone close to one. Whether the assistance is direct—cooking, feeding, reading aloud, providing physical assistance with exercising or dressing—or indirect—shopping, running errands, making telephone calls, cleaning and organizing—the performing of essential tasks is critically helpful and can often make the difference between anxiety and security for the person being helped. Other family members or neighbors may also appreciate being spelled so that they can get to essential matters in their own lives.

And of course the person being helped does not have to be old or permanently disabled. A working mother may be looking for child-care or someone to look after a sick child for a few hours while she goes grocery shopping. Sometimes an extra pair of hands can be useful in a busy household trying to pack for vacation or clean up in anticipation of company. While these tasks typically fall in the category of odd jobs, such work does not always require pay; in older times, exchanging labor was part of the fabric of community life, and no one expected to be paid in cash. The young volunteer might just set an example here of a kind of neighborhood “help bank” that could pay off for everyone over time.

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