Recently, I've been trying to keep up with people more. Asking them how they are, what they're doing now, that sort of thing, mostly through Facebook. But I try my best not to dwell on the surface. I don't just have happy conversations with them about the weather, things like that. I've been trying to find out about their problems, try to offer them advice on it and help them out in any way I can. Today, I found out about some of my friends' really distressing problems, and I felt really upset about not being able to help out more. I left Facebook feeling rather depressed. So many other people have so many problems, I was thinking to myself. If only I could give them better advice.
When I realised I had a problem with not knowing how to help people, I felt like finding someone to unload the problem onto. I wasn't necessarily expecting the person to be able to help me. I just felt like sharing my misery with someone else. But my problem is so silly. Who would want to listen to it? I smiled and thought to myself, even so, it's always nice to have someone who is willing to listen to one's problems.
But that's the answer, isn't it?
"It's always nice to have someone who is willing to listen to one's problems." Of course, my problem is a very minor problem compared to some of the difficulties that other people face in life. But perhaps, sometimes when life is getting you down, and you're facing many difficulties one after another, it's just nice to have someone to talk to, someone to share your problems with. It's nice to know that there's someone who feels for you, someone who bothers to know about your problems. Someone who will patiently listen to your problems, no matter how self-centered those problems may seem.
I've felt that way sometimes. Perhaps you have felt the same way too. If that's the case, others have probably felt the same way too. There might be people around us, people who are close to us, who have problems and just need someone whom they know will listen to them. Perhaps sometimes, you can help a person by just being there for them.
If you've faced many problems in the past, it would be a great help for you in helping out others. What others may call "a challenging time in life" can be turned into a learning experience simply by looking for things to learn from it. Problems that you've face in the past will help you to relate to others who are facing similar problems now. This will make it easier for you to relate to the person, and you will be able to give more relevant advice. Even telling him how you felt about it at the time and how you dealt with the situation internally can help the person a lot.
Or perhaps, a friend comes to you with a problem and you know someone who might be able to help them. When you try to help someone with their problems, you don't have to work entirely on your own capabilities. There may be someone, another friend, a parent, or a teacher who has handled problems like this before. You can go to them for advice that you can pass on to your friend who is struggling with the problem. You could even direct the friend to someone who could help them. There shouldn't be a reason to be ashamed of asking other people to help out with a problem that a friend brought to you. Just so long as the friend is willing to tell people other than you about his problem.
If a person would rather not let other people know about the problem he is facing, you could look for advice on the internet. Google does a lot of work for us these days, and the internet is a wide, wide ocean of information. If you're lucky, maybe a blogger like me (but hopefully better at writing) has gone through the same problem as your friend, and he has blogged about how he overcame that problem. That might be a good article to suggest for your friend to read. However, there are a lot of false teachings floating around the internet these days, so it's important to read things with discernment, so that you don't end up making your friend's problem worse.
Of course, not everyone can be a like Chinese shi-fu that has a proverb for every situation. I guess that sometimes it's easier to help people with their problems, and sometimes it's harder. I still feel that if all you can do to help a person is being that 'someone' who is ready to listen to their problems with open arms, it's nothing to be ashamed of. You don't have to provide a long list of steps to help them overcome their problems, or quote verses and sayings to make them feel better. I think that sometimes it's enough to just say "Can I listen to your problems?" As Mother Theresa once said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless."