A little bit of effort goes a long way

“How much can you bench?” is something that guys who work out ask each other all the time. It refers to the bench-press exercise, the key movement for upper-body strength and size development.

This is where you lay on a flat bench and push a barbell straight up, lock your arms, then slowly lower it until it just touches your chest, and repeat. Hopefully, you’re doing this in some kind of a safety cage, as it’s all too easy to have that heavy barbell come down on your neck with disastrous results.

Exercise is supposed to be good for you, not kill you.

Another way to do the bench press safely is with a “spotter.” This is where a friend carefully stands behind you in case anything goes wrong. Hopefully, he can help keep the barbell off you if you can’t safely “rack” it (put it back on its stand).

Here’s an interesting thing about spotting someone doing a bench press: often the lifter will be struggling with all his might to get just one more “rep” (repetition of the lifting movement), and the bar is just standing there not moving while the guy is straining heartily.

Then, all the spotter has to do is take a finger and gently push, and that little bit of extra oomph will get the bar up one last time. Truly, just a tiny little bit of help is often all it takes to help someone get through something that is very difficult.

What got me thinking about this was the group “In His Presence,” founded by my lovely cancer-survivor wife, Charlotte. This is a group for women who have a cancer diagnosis and want to receive support and grow in their Christian faith.

The main thing they do is meet once a week to pray for and mail cards to people they find out about who have cancer. The cards, often handmade and very beautiful, will have some scripture and other inspirational material in them, but the best is how they are signed: Charlotte, survivor 6 years; Mary, survivor 10 years; Diane, survivor 15 years, etc.

Sounds simple, I know — just a card sent using old-fashioned “snail mail” but like the spotter helping with the bench press, this little bit of effort gets very big results.

Believe it or not, now and then we get a phone call that is not from a telemarketer. Amazing, I know. Sometimes I’ll answer the phone and it’ll be a woman or even a man who has received a card from my wife’s group.

Invariably, before you know it, they are in tears with me on the phone. They are crying because they are literally blown away that A), someone cares that they have cancer and B), took the time to mail them such a wonderful card.

I had a woman tell me that card never leaves her purse and she rereads it all the time. I had a man tell me he keeps his card close by as well, that he never received anything like it, and that words cannot describe how much he appreciates it.

What is so ironic about this is I don’t really care much about store-bought birthday or greeting cards. When I get one, I just glance at it and file it if it’s just a card and a signature. But I’ve never gotten an “In His Presence” card. Knock wood, hopefully I’ll never need one, but it sure is nice to know they exist.

I tried to think of other things that take very little effort to help people so much. One thing I can personally attest to is donating blood.

I’ve been doing it for decades, going every 112 days for a “Power Red” donation. This is where they take your blood and make three blood products from that one donation. Donating blood is a fantastic way to directly help other people in your community.

I’m glad the Red Cross is nearby, making donating so easy to do. Not everyone can donate blood for various reasons, but if you can, it’s a great way to directly help your friends and neighbors.

I wish I could say I did a lot of other great volunteer stuff, but with working full-time and a house and cars and motorcycles and aging parents and now a grandson to deal with I don’t have as much time or energy to do more. When I retire, I hope that will change.

There are lots of organizations in the Capitol District doing super things to help people in need. Giving back to the community by helping out in a hands-on manner like this is the way to go. I, for one, would especially love to do Habitat for Humanity someday if I ever get the time.

Being a good spotter for someone doing the bench press is very helpful. Sending out thoughtful cards to folks with a cancer diagnosis is even better. Asking yourself on a regular basis, “How can I help others who need help?” is best of all.