You’re not here to help everyone. That’s not even possible.
But you’re likely not even here to help everyone you can. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I know that sounds harsh but stick with me on this one.
Some people take on a victim mentality. They are not victims of crimes or assaults, but rather victims of perceived slights. Or they get themselves in situations and want someone to rescue them - again and again. My learning has been to avoid the drama and not take on the rescuer role.
In situations of actual need, there are often those squeaky wheels who get greater and more frequent help simply because they are squeaky. While we overlook the person who is quietly in much more need. My learning has been to triage and prioritize my energy towards those in most need.
Sometimes we need to put ourselves first, or, as the investment people say, pay ourselves first. A concept in the chronic illness world is around ‘spoons’ - how many spoons you have today and how you want to use those. The spoon theory is a helpful way to look at other situations as well. I used to put helping others first and, when I ran out of spoons, it was my needs that didn’t get met. This doesn’t mean that I don’t help others simply because I’m short on spoons. In emergencies, I work flexibly to dig deep into my spoons; maybe I skip some sleep but take a nap tomorrow or I pick up quality take out to get some nutritious food. But I can’t short my spoons day-in and day-out without verging into burnout or physical signs. And then I’m no good to anyone.
One of the biggest learnings for me has been ‘just because I can, doesn’t mean I should’. There’s an adage around giving projects to the busiest person because they’ll get them done. But this minimizes the opportunity and community responsibility for each person. We’re a world of 8 billion people. There’s lots of people who can help. We don’t need to take on everything that comes our way.
However, there is a group that I very often prioritize. I have felt this as a bit of calling for most of my life so this is not a suggestion for others to take on, but I am aware of others who feel similarly called and it can feel confusing on the surface until one recognizes the pattern.
I oftentimes focus my energy not on those asking for help or in obvious need, but on the helpers, healers, and leaders. I do this in all sorts of ways. It may be as simple as a card, small gift, or words of encouragement. It may be informal coaching, sessions, or time to hold space for whatever is coming up. These aren’t usually one-and-done helps and it also takes time to also build trust, most often through repeatedly showing up. Many of these are longer term investments - I can think of some that span more than 5 years. I help them have more spoons to do the work that they do. And yes, there are those who do this for me for which I’m extremely grateful!
We’re in a season of change where there will be a lot of true needs and perceived needs. You can’t help everyone. You also need to help yourself. Within all of that, who are you called to help? Perhaps an individual, a group, animals, the land, or a cause.
I find the people who have the clearest idea of their interest, focus, and/or purpose in life also have the clearest boundaries.
Each of us is needed. Each of us has needs. Honor the calling and purpose within.