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Why do you want to help?
| Debra Harkins | ,

Helping seems like an obvious act, right?! However, there are many types of helping, including helping because it makes one feel good, helping to make someone else feel good, helping based on charity, empathy, or sense of equity. What we do not often consider is how the act of helping can make the one being helped feel less than and make the helper feel-or look—more than (Schein, 2009). Helping is an unequal act!

So, how do we help without perpetuating the very injustices we are seeking to remove? First, we need to become aware of why we want to help. Try to answer some of the following questions on how you think and feel about helping:

• How do you define helping?
• Do you help because you’re “suppose” to help the downtrodden, the sick, or the infirm?
• Do you feel bad for the other?
• Do you help based on sympathy, empathy, and/or justice?
• Do you expect those who are helped to say thank you for say receiving a dollar from you?
• What if the helped don’t smile when you give them a dollar?
• What if the helped don’t say or do anything at all? Do you continue to help? Why or why not?

From Alongside Community: Learning in service (Routledge, 2017)