Laurie Englert was a normal woman working in the AV industry — at the top of her career, married and a mother of two great kids.
In June of 2004, everything changed. Her husband committed suicide. He had suffered from mild depression and had gotten to a point where it all got to be too much and decided to take his own life. He was a talented interior designer, but most importantly, an incredible father.
Laurie was in shock. And left with her two children who, at the time, were 4 and 8 years old.
Within hours of learning the news, people everywhere offered their condolences and the typical-and-often-said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. You know, if there’s anything I can do let me know.”
And, of course, Laurie didn’t know what she needed. She didn’t know what she wanted. She didn’t know what to say. She was in a perpetual state of shock and all she could think to do next was put one foot in front of the other.
“What I noticed through this process is there are a ton of people who kept saying, ‘Call me if you need anything!’”, Laurie recalled. “And truth is, I’m never going to call you. I’m independent; I rarely reach out for help. I will try until my death bed to do it myself. And at the end of the day, most people don’t know how to help but they feel they need to say or offer something… even though they aren’t likely to actually reach out and help.”
You know, so often we find ourselves faced with tragedy, or we see a friend or loved one go through something unthinkable… and so often, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know what to say. So all we can do or say is, “Call me if there’s anything I can do,” knowing full well they’re never going to call us. But we feel better having offered.
Except for the few that do. However, They don’t ask. They just… do.
Within hours of the news, Laurie’s friend Sally, who also happens to be a senior event planner at Chief, showed up at Laurie’s door. Sally asked Laurie, “How’s it going? How are funeral plans going?”
Laurie stared at her. Nothing to say. She didn’t know what to say.
Sally’s response? “OK, then. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
Well, a few hours later, Sally was back, put a post-it note on Laurie’s counter with times and places Laurie needed to be. The church was notified, florist was arranged, the meetings were scheduled, and Sally had taken care of it all. Laurie didn’t have to do a thing except be where Sally told her to be.
“I wasn’t in a state of mind to make decisions. Sally just made them for me. And that was the best thing I could have ever not asked for,” said Laurie.
It was this kind of help from someone like Sally – her action of “not asking, just doing” that gave Laurie the idea for Don’t Ask, Just Do.
This year, Laurie is launching the site, Dontaskjustdo.org and is in the process of writing a book about her experiences and the experiences of others in times of need.
It’s a resource for people who want to help, but often don’t know what to do.
Laurie remembered that a few friends had shown up to her house with a basket of lotions, towels and things to make her feel better. Another showed up with a basket of M&Ms and popcorn… but those things aren’t Laurie at all.
“Not that they were bad gifts, or that any gift is a BAD gift, but a lot of times you need to consider the person… understand who that person it. Ask a friend or relative what they need,” said Laurie.
Another friend showed up and cleaned out Laurie’s husband’s closet… clearly something Laurie was in no place to do. Laure said, “Things like that are the things people might not think about doing, but if they saw or read about it in a book, they might.”
“The concept behind the book and the website is, ultimately, to share my story and all of the cool things that happened to me without ever asking for any of them,” said Laurie. “But also, to share others’ stories.”
The idea literally came to Laurie’s mind after she was done digesting everything that had happened and was so thankful to the people who were so helpful. And she committed to herself that she would always be there for someone who was in a tragic situation.
Laurie went to bookstores and searched the Internet, but there was nothing out there. There were very little resources for handling tragic situations like Laurie’s and she knew that she could do something about it.
In the past eight months, Laurie partnered with Susan Misukanis of Top Rank Marketing out of Minneapolis who is helping her develop the website and launch the book. When the site officially launches, there will be greeting cards, t-shirts, and other elements for sale in addition to the ability to share and read the stories of others.
If you are interested in sharing your story or finding out about how you can help with Don’t Ask, Just Do, visit their website at dontaskjustdo.org.
“It’s not about making a billion dollars off the idea. It’s about trying to help others. How do you help people live a better life and feel good when they walk away from a tragedy or tragic event? And it doesn’t have to be death, it can be someone who lost his/her job, is dealing with an aging parent, a health issue, or a child suffering from bullying… anything really,” said Laurie.
I think if we all approached life and tragedy the way Laurie does, we’d all be able to make a difference in the lives of others.
Molly Stillman is the director of marketing and new business development for rAVe [Publications]. Reach her at email@example.com