By Jennifer Richardson
Have you seen them? The people who help another, but sometimes forget to take care of themselves? They can be hard to spot, but they quietly walk among us. They often operate behind the scenes and give through a multitude of hidden avenues, but you can recognize these elusive contributors if you look carefully.
You might know them from their occasional tired faces. They are the people who are frequently weary from helping someone with a project, but they probably won’t consider it a burden. They arrive early and often work late.
There is no uniform for a giver, but you can sometimes recognize them by their tendency to wear the same clothing for years, so that they can make sure that their children and others have the things they need.
You might see a pattern in how they use their time off. They use their sick days from work to be home to care for someone else. They think nothing of using their vacation days to help where help is needed.
Sometimes you can recognize them from their absence. Every now and then they miss entertaining or interesting events because something came up at the last minute and they chose to offer assistance in place of having fun.
They often have magical time management skills. Even though we are all allotted the same number of hours in the day, these people somehow find time to drop off food when a family is in crisis, show up to watch their grandchild in the spelling bee, or actually read the papers that come home in their child’s backpack.
You may be able to spot a giver by the events they support. They are the faithful fans in the stands, they ones who make sure everyone has the shirt, shoes, tie, pants, shorts, gown, and whatever else they need to participate. They have attended, and happily brought gifts to, a staggering number of births, birthdays, graduations, weddings, and baby showers.
You can also find them making a dignified appearance at the end of someone’s life. They show up for funerals and pay their respects, simply because a life lived is worth respecting.
Discreet attentiveness is their universal calling card. If you glance their way quickly, may see them tacitly giving up their seat for someone else, or simply moving so others can be comfortable. They unobtrusively hand you something for your trip on your way out the door. They wonder if you are too warm, too cold, too hungry, or just too tired. They offer words of encouragement. They make others feel loved.
Sometimes you know them from their tendency to float. They gently drift away from conversations that include gossip or hurtful words. They don’t want to be quoted about something destructive; they just won’t be a part of wounding anyone. They are generous with praise, but do not seek reward or recognition for themselves.
They are preservation experts. They save you a memento from something you had to miss. They make scrapbooks and albums of things that will be precious memories. They are willing to take the picture that everyone grumbles about being in, so that long after recollections have faded, everyone can look back into a moment they didn’t realize they would come to treasure.
Givers are frequent fliers at local delivery systems. You might see them at the post office sending packages to grandchildren, or at the florist sending flowers to recognize special events in other people’s lives. They transport the forgotten homework, the overlooked lunch, and that thing that is absolutely positively due today.
If you pay close attention you can even spot a giver by observing reaction times. There is usually a very small interval between the moment a giver hears someone is in dire straits and the moment they decide to help.
The art of giver spotting is worth cultivating. And when you spot all kinds of givers throughout your life, you could thank them for what they do; they make life better for all of us. As nice as it will be to offer words of appreciation, your greatest thank-you will be to show them you have taken their example to heart and quietly become a giver yourself.