Help has been my word of the week. It’s been swirling around everywhere. I’ve asked for it and it’s been given. I’ve offered it and it’s been accepted. I even heard an anguished cry for HELP, and of course I responded accordingly.
So I started to wonder how often we actually use the word. The Go Natural English website, a site for people learning English, has a list of the 1000 most commonly used English words. On that list HELP comes in at 167. I was pleased to see that KIND made it in at 250, while FEAR, WORRY and STUFF were sitting way down in the 900s.
But back to HELP and how it featured during the week.
On Wednesday I had to catch a train and I couldn’t be sure if I was on the right platform. So I asked a man for directions. ‘Yes, you’re in the right place’, he said to me. ‘I’m taking that same train, so I’ll keep an eye out and make sure you get off at the right station’. I offered my thanks but he just shrugged at that, and assured me he was happy to help.
On Thursday a young woman I didn’t know approached me as I walked through the park. She told me she’d noticed a man sleeping rough under a tree who didn’t look too well. ‘I think he might need our help’, she said to me, so together we went back to check on him and do what we could do.
Then on Friday, as I was weaving my way through a public housing estate, I heard an elderly woman cry out for help. I discovered that her even more elderly friend had fallen in a heap on a hard concrete path. Once I’d managed to get her friend back up on her feet, she told me she was glad a strong Australian had shown up to help.
On Sunday a young woman who was slouched on the ground outside the local supermarket smoking a cigarette, watched as I began to lumber my overpacked suitcase up some rickety stairs. She jumped to her feet, threw away the cigarette, and insisted that she could help.
And then on Monday, a young man sitting next to me on a bus turned and asked if it was headed to the town where he wanted to be. I told him that he was on the wrong bus and that he needed to jump off at the next stop and catch a different one. He laughed at that, told me he was glad that he’d checked, and then thanked me for the help.
So by Tuesday, it’d occurred to me that no matter what the story was, every time I offered it, or asked for it, and was lucky enough to get it, it always ended with me feeling more connected to the people involved, people that had once been strangers. And I also realised each and every one of those helpful encounters made me feel more optimistic about we humans as a species.
So if that’s the effect it has, I’m glad HELP made it to the list.
By the way, THANKS came in at 498.