I came across the following story in a friend's Facebook status the other day:
I experienced the most frustrating situation today. I was walking by a restaurant and saw an old man lying on the sidewalk, clearly recently collapsed, with his cane by his side. Three people were having an outdoor lunch and were sort of staring askance at him, saying things to passersby like, "We are just trying to have lunch," and, "We called an ambulance, that's all we're supposed to do."
Apparently, it never occurred to anyone to talk to him. Like humans do. I'm really not saying this to disparage the people who were eating lunch (no doubt they were a bit shocked and uncertain how to proceed) but just to remember, in these situations, to put ourselves in the person's place and act accordingly.
It's pretty easy to then realize that all you would want, in his situation, is for someone to sit down next to you, maybe say a few kind words, and assure you that help is on the way. This is not rocket science. This is basic human decency.
That message: "put ourselves in the person's place and act accordingly" is so simple, and so powerful.
Keeping this scenario in mind, let's discuss being a friend to someone who is not yet married. Notice that I referred to your friend as "not yet married," and not as "single." Based on my experience, many of them are tired of being referred to as "single." Would you always refer to your unemployed friend as "jobless"? 'Hi, I'd like to introduce you to my jobless friend, Joe.'
But we do have a tendency to introduce people as 'my single friend, Joe.' While we'd like to help Joe find a wife, I think our sensitivity needs to be heightened. All too often I hear from those searching for their soul mates that they feel mistreated. A top complaint is that friends don't relate to them as a person anymore. "I feel like someone's next project rather than their friend." Whether someone is helpless, jobless or single, let's remember that they are more than just those things. Not only are they human, they are a soul, a spark of the divine. Let's not needlessly categorize one another.
Understanding how to think about (and refer to) our friends searching for their soul mates is one thing, but understanding how to act is another. What do we say to them and how do we help them? Can we even talk about dating? How do we know if they want to talk about dating? I have another Facebook post that offers some guidance:
When I walk around the city, I always have an apple to offer to anyone who asks for money or food (even when they don't ask). I was on the subway without my usual bags. A woman entered the train. Her sweet-voiced plea was for food or any change because she was homeless and pregnant. As she approached where I sat, I told her the truth: "I have nothing but a piece of plastic on me. When the train stops, I'd like to give you a hug if you'll let me."
The woman stopped and smiled. She nodded her head affirmingly. The train stopped. I rushed towards her to catch her before she exited. She stopped. We hugged each other. She said, "God bless you, sister," and exited the train.
I think there are two things to take away from this story. This person carries a just-in-case apple! Learn to be prepared. It's not only a smart move; it helps you stay compassionate and thoughtful. Carrying an apple shows that she has given forethought and made effort even before meeting the soon-to-be-owner of the apple.
The second lesson is that even if you aren't prepared and not sure what you have to offer, you always have something. You always have your compassion, love and warmth to share. A smile, a pat on the back, a handshake or, yes, even a hug, may be all someone needs. Nonverbal communication can be more meaningful than words. The old saying "actions speak louder than words" is true. We don't always need to have the right words at the right time. Sometimes all we need is to show we care.
Here are a few ways to show you care. Make time to sit down and have a cup of coffee with your friend. Really get to know your friend's preferences in a mate. Remember, you're trying to let go of what your personal preferences are and really listen to your friend's preferences. Once you've got that info, you're ready to take a look in the world.
But before you search the entire world, first search your world. Who is in your network that could help you find your friend's Mr. or Mrs. Right? Make a few calls on your friend's behalf; be a detective. Should you come up with an interesting suggestion, by all means, try to set your friend up. Of course, you'll want to check in with your friend to make sure s/he agrees that the suggestion is on target. Even if your suggestion doesn't lead to a date, you've learned more about your friend's preferences and more about matchmaking. You're making an investment in your friend, which is the greatest gift you can give.
For those of you searching for your soul mate, please comment below and tell the world what you need. What would you like from your friends and family members? What would make you feel loved and supported?
May you easily recognize your soul mate and may you find good friends who support you in the ways you need.
Originally published here, at Aish.com.