Many of you may have an unbridled good and helpful nature. Those of you who walk the spiritual path, might not even know, when to stop being helpful. If you have no limits, there are no dearth of takers in the world.

Ideally, if we were like one of the spiritual gurus we follow, we would like to help, with no limits whatsoever. Till we reach the stature of our gurus with boundless love, kindness and compassion, we may need to draw a boundry, to restrict our helping nature. Let me share a few thoughts on helping others.

First, let us consider different types of help which we may offer to a person in need. Help can be a kind word, a gesture, a word of recommendation, charity of food, clothes, service etc., offering your time for social causes, sharing your skills and knowledge, financial help etc., The list is incomplete, as the definition of help can encompass, a whole lot of things.

In some business communities and religion, they restrict their financial obligation towards charity to 10% of their net income after taxes. Note : Kindly make yourself financially self sufficient, before trying to help others. Never borrow to help others, you can offer other types of help as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Do help within your means, don’t overdo.

Advice – Yes, that over used and abused word which elicits the same response as an overstaying uninvited guest, is also a form of help. Don’t advice untill asked. Unsolicited advice may even backfire on you, the other person may start hating you. I don’t advice anyone unless I am asked and will offer advice, only on topics I know or have some experience in that particular field. If I am not sure, I just reply “I don’t know”. Exceptions are, when somebody can injure themselves, or put themselves in dangerous situations, in such situations I offer unsolicited advice. Rest of the time I keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes, I keep tracking mobile phone brands, electronic gadgets or Audio products, just to keep myself up-to-date, on innovations happening in this space. A friend might ask me to choose a mobile phone. As a tech enthusiast, I may check details of the processor, memory, display, camera specification, charging time, software updates, their budget etc., but he / she will go ahead and buy what fancies them or just go by the suggestion of the shop keeper. Trying to help your friend, choose a product will be a waste of your time and energy. It may even earn your friend’s resentment for suggesting a bad product or by problems arising due to his mishandling of the product.

One of my friend’s dad, let’s call him Krishna, is from a small town in southern state of Karnataka. Once he was walking down the market street to buy some vegetables, a villager approached him to answer a mobile phone call. The person on the other side of the call, was speaking in Hindi language, and the villager only knew the local language Kannada. Our Krishna uncle thought, this was the best opportunity to brush off his Hindi language speaking skills, and in chaste and pure Hindi, provided his bank account details, one time password and whatever details, the person on the phone call requested. Within a few hours, his bank account was wiped clean just like a freshly cleaned slate. He lost all his savings which was in that particular bank account. The less said the better, about the working of the cyber crime cell, of the police department. Failed money transfer transactions, through your bank account, to help a friend, may also land you in a soup, sometimes.

With all your good intentions, suggesting a product or service, investment advice, real estate deals, life advice, business ideas, may all backfire on you, and you will be blamed for the mess. In case you want to help in these areas, help with a disclaimer. Similar to the ones they show about, mutual fund investment on television.

Standing as a guarantor for a bank or finance loan may place, unnecessary financial burden upon you. Being a witness for someone’s court case, can also waste your time and cause mental stress. There are a few situations where you have to help even, after knowing the risks. In such cases be prepared, for a little inconvenience.

Kind hearted doctors bear the maximum brunt. Sometimes they have to provide free consultation, procedures, medicine, hospital stay for the needy ones, and day by day the line of needy ones just seem to get bigger. Only a doctor can fix a limit, on the number of cases he can handle, based on his “need to serve” aptitude. I bow my head in gratitude, to all the doctors, who overburden themselves in the service of humankind.

My mother would humorously chide my father by saying “If I leave your father to his ways, he will even donate his underwear and become a Sanyasi. Thank God, I’m there. Otherwise, you children would be literally begging on the streets.” It might seem strange, but extra good persons are cheated a little extra. It seems even nature wants to teach you a lesson, while you go on your helping spree.

How much should you lend to your friends? Whatever surplus amount you can spare, which you don’t expect to be returned within stipulated time, can be lent to a friend. Sometimes, you might not get your money back, but the friendship remains intact. Those of you subscribe to the idea of “Business alag hai, friendship alag hai” meaning “Business is different and friendship is different” in Hindi language. It’s an indirect message politely declining financial help. These business minded ones destroy the very ethos of friendship, and I steer clear of them. This is my personal preference and you can take your own call on business friends.

My residence is situated near a circle where three roads join and there was a Auto Rickhaw stand nearby. During that period I was running a mobile recharge and gift shop, sometimes the auto drivers would hang around the shop and chat with me. They would share their daily travails with me. One particular Auto driver told me, that he was paying 500rs. daily, to a finance for his auto loan, and many a day he would return empty handed to home. It was with great difficulty, he was able to feed his family. He said an amount of Rs. 25000 will solve his loan problem, with the finance. During that time I had received an annual bonus, from the firm I was working, my wife was managing the gift shop. From the annual bonus I gave the Auto driver Rs. 25000. He was to give me daily 500rs., which he was paying to the finance. The condition was that, there would be no interest. If on a particular day, he did not get sufficient rides, he need not pay his daily installment to me. I was in a “pay it forward” mood, that is from the daily amount I receive, I thought of helping the next Auto driver in distress. But the universe had other ideas, the Auto driver did not pay back a single penny and after a few gentle reminders shifted to another circle in the city. I wrote off the loan after a month’s time from my mind. My mother offered some sage advice to me by saying “Son, be helpful, but others should not get the impression, that you can be easily cheated.” Is that the lesson, the universe wants to teach me. I don’t know ?

I have only touched the surface of the vast ocean called help. My thoughts on help are meant to shed light, on different aspects of offering help and in no way should become an obstacle for your helping nature. Keep helping others to the maximum possible extent. While offering help don’t get entangled in other people’s problems. This is my only wish for you.

I am all ears, to hear your stories of offering help to others. Share your stories in the comments section. From your help stories, I may gain some new perspective, on ways of offering help to others. Help others so that you may help yourself.

I will conclude the article with lines taken from a poem by Keith M. Kent :
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.