Help People and Expect Nothing in Return

Sometimes when we think about (or write about) personal finance, it can feel like everything in life is related to money. The coffee we buy, the transportation we use for getting to work, even our free time. It all represents an opportunity to save money or make more money. And for the most part, that’s a good thing. We do want to be conscientious about making wise decisions with our finances.

But we should always avoid allowing our focus on monetary value to transfer over to our relationships with other people. When that happens, our demeanor and outlook on life can change… and not for the better.

Why do I mention this today? Yesterday on Reddit, someone posted a story about how they helped an elderly man at a WalMart store (where they work) take his groceries out to his car. It was a simple story about a simple gesture, but it struck a chord – getting more than 4,000 comments in less than 24 hours. The person wrote:

I walked him out to his car like I usually do, and when we got to his car, he stopped and said he had a question for me. He asked me why I was always so nice to him, and I told him my mother is a geriatric nurse, and when I was a kid, I used to hang out at the nursing home with her playing with the old ladies and pretending I was there granddaughter, because it made them extremely happy that someone cared.

My mother always taught me to respect my elders, because a lot of them have no one that talks to them, or is even nice to them. I told him I wasn’t trying to say he was a lonely old man no one talked to, but I’m always polite to everyone, especially the elderly, because that’s how I was raised.

He got teared up and told me I was absolutely right, his children hadn’t spoken to him in years, his wife had passed a while ago, and when he goes out in public people treat him like a burden. He said I am the nicest person he had ever met at a Walmart, and that I’m the only reason he ever comes here anymore.

In the comments below this story, many Redditors shared their own experiences with helping people in some small way or being helped by someone they did not know.

I think it’s a good reminder to all of us.

Taking control of our finances is important because it allows us to enjoy life and the people we care about – not because of the money itself. When you reach financial security embrace it and use it as a springboard to develop stronger connections to the people around you. If you make the mistake of thinking the money is the end goal, you will no doubt lose your way.

That’s one reason why I appreciate that so many personal finance bloggers use their platform to advocate for helping others (and put their time/money where their mouths are), like Enemy Of Debt including monthly charitable giving in his budget spreadsheet, Frugal Beautiful directing her birthday presents to Charity Water, and J. Money creating the incredible Love Drop.

As for me, reading this one story and the comments below it made me want to be more purposeful about how I interact with people. And to be less hurried in my interactions with others. By taking a little more time to see what someone is feeling, and being open to the possibility that I can help – even if they’re a stranger, I think I’ll improve my own experience and maybe make a small difference in someone else’s.

Have you ever experienced a moment like this when you were able to help a stranger or when a stranger reached out to you?

Image credit: melpomen

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  • Loved this article and thank you so much for touting my campaign…we are SO close to the $2,600 goal…we are about to hit $1900 and I know we can keep going! People like you, spreading the word, make it possible! THANK YOU!

    • Of course, Shannyn! I think what you’re doing is wonderful and I’m optimistic that you will hit the $2,600 goal. Let us know how it goes!

  • Lou

    Wonderful story and so true. I’ve always had a enormous respect for the elderly and will go out of my way to help when I can. The stories I’ve heard are shocking and disgusting. At a time in their life when they should have the most respect they are tossed aside and forgotten. It really is so sad how little it takes to make someones day a little easier…..Thanks for the article…

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I hope more and more people will share your perspective. I appreciate your kind words and am glad you liked the article. Thanks!