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Essays by Karen Anderson: Helping Someone

Illustration by Kacie Brown

I was walking along Seventh Street near the Hagerty Building one summer afternoon when a middle-aged couple approached me. “You live here?” the woman asked and I nodded. “Where is downtown?” her husband asked, holding up his phone to show me a map of somewhere else.

“I can help,” I said. “You’re almost there.” The woman smiled. “Are there little shops?” I assured her there were lots of little shops eager to sell her something. “Go to the corner of Cass,” I said, pointing at the street and the sign, “Then turn left, go two blocks and you’re on Front Street, downtown.”

The husband wasn’t looking at the street or the sign; he was looking at his phone. “Which way on Front?” he asked and I laughed. “Either way,” I said, “Lots of little shops.”

They both thanked me profusely and I was smiling as I went on my way, surprised to discover how much pleasure it gave me to help these people. And I think most of us are really yearning to be of help to each other.

In an emergency, it’s easy to know what’s needed but in daily life, we sometimes hesitate. Will I invade someone’s privacy, insult their independence if I offer to rake a yard, bring a casserole?

Usually not, as it turns out. Even if the result is just a conversation, the need might be met.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.