How Can I Help?
Happiness is not finding the right person, it's being the right person
By Darol Wagstaff
Years ago, a group of young people were sailing down the St. Lawrence River. They were drinking and partying and having a good time. A man on the shore, who realized the dangers ahead of them, cried: "The rapids are below you, row to shore, you are getting too close to the falls." But they, ignoring his warning, defied him, "we are all right, mind your own business and leave us alone," and they continued to party and indulge themselves. The man cried out again: "I am trying to help, the rapids that lead to the falls are below you," and again they gave no heed to his warning.
A few minutes later they found themselves in the rapids and frantically rowing for the shore, but it was too late. The old man stood helplessly as he heard the cries of the youth. They were screaming and yelling through the rapids, and then over the falls they went.
When my wife Loree was pregnant with our fifth child she was very sick. (All of her pregnancies have been difficult but this one seemed particularly hard.) I did my best to manage at home and work but I knew that I needed to do more. Everyone in our family was struggling. Our two teenage daughters, and our nine and four-year-old sons were all running in their own directions. We were forgetting about the good in life and concentrating on how hard things were. In our efforts to survive, we were becoming selfish and "ME" oriented.
These two stories dramatize a common problem, and that is that we all need to help each other more. My family was struggling because we neglected to focus on what we could do for each other and the old man on the shore failed in his attempt to save the youth because they weren't receptive to what he was trying to give to them.
While reading about the legendary writer, teacher, and humanitarian Lowell L. Bennion, I learned a fairly simple solution to this problem. For more than six decades, he answered his phone, "Hello, this is Lowell Bennion. How can I help??"
There are two sides, however, to helping: giving help and receiving help.
  1. Giving help. One cannot give what he does not possess.
  2. Receiving help. One cannot appreciate what he does not recognize.
When dealing with the dynamics of youth it's important to know that young people traditionally have a tougher time knowing how to give help and how to receive help.
Using research from over 270,000 youth in over 600 communities, an organization called, "Search Institute" has identified 30 developmental assets (Building Blocks), that young people need to grow up healthy. The 30 assets include "external assets," related to support, boundaries, and structured time; and "internal assets," such as commitment to education, positive values and social competencies. The research shows that those with a certain number of assets are more likely to make positive choices, and much less likely to be involved in violence, alcohol or drug abuse, pre-marital sexual activity, and school failure. The more assets you have the stronger your sense of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity will be.
To find out how prepared you are to help others (as a youth or a parent) identify how many of the 30 Building Blocks you possess.

30 Building Blocks for Healthy Youth
Yes No External Assets -Support

___  ___1. Family provides love and support.
___  ___2. Turns to parents for advice and support.
___  ___3. Frequent communication with parents.
___  ___4. Has other non-parent adults for support.
___  ___5. Frequent communication with non-parent adults.
___  ___6. Parents are involved in school.
___  ___7. Positive and encouraging school climate.
External Assets - Boundaries
___  ___8. Whereabouts are monitored.
___  ___9. Disciplined when rules are violated.
External Assets - Structured time
___  ___10. Knows how to plan ahead.
___  ___11. Spends time in music training or practice.
___  ___12. Spends at least four nights a week at home.
Internal Assets - Commitment to Education
___  ___13. Motivated to achieve in school.
___  ___14. Regularly spends time doing homework.
___  ___15. Does well in school.
___  ___16. Involved in school sports and clubs.
___  ___17. Wants to attend post-high school education.
Internal Assets - Positive Values
___  ___18. High self-esteem.
___  ___19. Can stand up for what they believe.
___  ___20. Positive view of their future.
___  ___21. Good at making decisions.
___  ___22. Believes it is important to abstain from pre-marital sex.
___  ___23. Regularly attends religious services or programs.
___  ___24. Believes it is important to help others.
Internal Assets - Social Competencies
___  ___26. Cares about other people's feelings.
___  ___27. Good at making friends.
___  ___28. Best friends have responsible behavior.
___  ___29. Involved in clubs outside of school.
___  ___30. Concerned about world issues.


Add up your Building Blocks. 26-30 = strong; 11-25 = needs improvement; 0-10 = weak. This shows youth and parents alike that when you recognize what you have to give, you can focus better on how to give it.
Providing service to others rather than seeking service from others has been something religious and political leaders have been encouraging for centuries. The prophet Isaiah commanded--to "undo the heavy burdens...and to let the oppressed go free," and on January 20, 1961 President John F. Kennedy declared, "my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."
Parents, young adults, teenagers, pre-teenagers, children and toddlers can all help make the family strong. When life becomes too hard, try to do your part by not worrying so much about what your family can do for you, but by determining what you can do for your family.
If you help enough people get what they want then you will always end up getting what you want. Remember, "Happiness is not finding the right person, it's being the right person." So greet each new day and each new challenge with Lowell Bennion's encouraging words, "How Can I Help." This will carry good works and creative solutions to your family, your friends and perhaps even to thousands who are in need.

1997-98 Family Matters Magazine

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