Asking ‘How Can I Help?’


By Richard Gammill
PREVIEW Columnist

My wife and I moved from California to South Fork, Colo., in September 1996. Several weeks later it snowed — hard. I had several shovels among my yard and garden tools, but no snow shovel. When I came home from work that day, I discovered someone had plowed my driveway. By the time of the next snowfall, I had a bright new snow shovel in hand. But it happened again: I came home ready to shovel, but a neighbor had already cleared my driveway. This went on for several weeks.

I finally learned one of my new Colorado friends kept busy plowing out the driveways of single ladies and the elderly. I went to him and said, “Dennis, you don’t have to do this for me. I am able to shovel out my own driveway.”

He said, “Yes, but you have to do it by hand and it takes me only a few minutes to do the job with the plow on my pickup. You have plenty of other things to do.”

When I got to know Dennis better, I found he liked to discover needs among his church family or community and find ways to help that no one else had thought about. He learned he could arrange for a shipment of canned and fresh food items to South Fork. He rallied his church to operate a food pantry one Saturday a month for community families in need.

A close friend in California, named Dick, was constantly on the lookout for situations where he could serve anonymously. When he learned about a family in need, perhaps through a newspaper account, he made inquiries about their circumstances and took innovative steps to provide help.

Dick became acquainted with an Indian boarding school in Arizona, got its list of supporters and sent a small “thank you” gift to each donor. I stopped by their house and found Dick and his wife at work wrapping up their collection of Precious Moments figures to mail to friends of the school. 

Many of us reach out to someone going through hardship — they’ve lost their job, a loved one has just passed away or they are afflicted with COVID-19 — and say, “Let me know how I can be of help.” That throws it back on our friend to acknowledge our sincerity by thinking of some way to respond to our offer. A vague offer of help usually gets no taker.

Thoughtful insight leads us to make specific offers: “We want you to bring your children over here Friday evening so you two can have a much-needed night out.” “Leave your mower where I can get to it Saturday; I’m coming over to mow your lawn so you can be with your wife in the hospital.” “Let me have your car tomorrow and I will make sure it’s ready for you to make the trip to see your new granddaughter.” “While you recover from surgery, my son will pick up your laundry so I can take care of it.” 

During this COVID-19 crisis, when our country asked “how can we help?” it meant easing export restrictions and sending tons of vaccine supplies to countries like India, where more than a quarter million people have died.

These words from I John 3:16-18 can guide us: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone had material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

This column includes both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to