The random noise that sprouts from one’s email and social networks can get immense. Notifications pop up every day, where about half of which are actually useful or of interest to you. But every now and then, your inbox might just receive a request or two from an unknown individual, reaching out and asking for just a bit of your time.
Oftentimes, I would ignore them, as I was focused on the idea that most of them might be part of an elaborate scheme to earn your trust before gradually stealing your financial or identification details. But on a few recent occasions, I’ve found that some of their requests were rather reasonable and perfectly on the up and up.
Once, I was approached on Facebook by a random student who was doing research. According to her, she was desperately in need of getting in touch with a student whose university had synchronized its semesters with the semesters of most universities abroad so that she could gauge the advantages and disadvantages of such an adjustment. Me being a student of such a university and having only little time on my hands, I saw no reason not to give her a helping hand. After I had answered her questions, she thanked me once more. According to her, I had apparently been the only student who had been able to respond to her queries with other students.
In another instance, I received a message from a student on the other side of the country who needed a little help proofreading her essays, as she had been having trouble constructing her thoughts properly in English. Seeing no reason to turn her down as well, I accepted and gave a few suggested edits and corrections for her work. After that fruitful encounter, she would then message me every so often asking for suggestions and corrections, most of which I humored. Sometimes, I would have to draw the line when I felt like I was being asked to do her work for her, but I continued giving a few more tips and tricks for her to hopefully achieve her best on her own efforts.
What do I make of these two examples? Well, if there is anything to learn, perhaps it’s that a little empathy can go a long way, and that time could be one of the most valuable things you can offer to someone in need.
But please don’t take this as an encouragement to throw caution to the wind. I wouldn’t want you to just automatically trust the first stranger who sends you a vague message asking for help. Key in wanting to help someone out on the other end is to 1) Find out what they say they want and after they give you that information 2) Make sure that there isn’t something else they’re actually trying to get from you while they proceed under a false premise. If you fear that your safety is being put in too much risk for a certain request, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Always take the necessary precautions, but it doesn’t hurt to be up for the challenge of giving a little of your time to others. Meeting and interacting with strangers is a fact of life. It’s up to you to know when to say no and when to give them a piping hot brewed cup of that precious TIME.