Every day there are people out there struggling, be it with small inconveniences or bigger life strokes.
For those you feel like helping out in some way, there's often the question of "How?". It's the same struggle, whether you don't know them very well or they're your best friend.
Sometimes the situation is so complicated or delicate, that you truly don't have the slightest idea as how to approach it. Other times you simply cannot figure out what the person in need would appreciate the most from you in that certain time in their life.
Of course every person is different and depending on what they are dealing with, you'll have to do your personal thinking and judging, but as a general guide, you might want to start with the following steps.
1. What would you need if you were in their situation?
Assess the information you already have regarding their struggle and try to imagine how'd you feel, what you'd miss, what might help you, where would you prefer to go and how could someone with your actual role in their life help you.
Brainstorm quickly and write down as much as you can. There are no wrong answers at this point.
2. Add what they lack, in comparison to you.
Continue the same scenario on your mind, just try to include the actual circumstances of the other person. We can't always know accurately, just try as far as you can.
Start with the obvious, such as gender, age, marital status, background, parental status, etc. They might be parents or own a pet. A male has different needs to a female in most scenarios. If they're younger than you, try to project yourself to when you were their age. Married people like yourself might not need companionship, but single ones could appreciate it a lot.
After going through these obvious factors, go a little further and think of their financial/ social/ relationship/ family statuses. Someone may be in a worse financial situation than you and could use all the help in that section. Or maybe they don't have good relationships with family members and there's no one to support them emotionally. For someone, lending your time or knowledge could be more helpful than anything else. Or could be more straightforward and simple, like if someone sick normally cooks for their family and you could save their life by dropping by a few cooked/bought meals until they get better.
3. Cross off what they don't need.
You should have a pretty long list of what your friend, relative or stranger in need could use by now. So, it's time to cross off the list everything that they wouldn't need.
Start with notes from point 1. Remove what you'd need, but they don't (because they are not you). They could be in a better financial situation than you or they might already have a lot of people by their side to support them emotionally. Or they don't have kids/spouses/pets to take care of.
Then go on to the notes from point 2. Consider what you can cross off here, including the things you don't know for sure or the things they haven't told you themselves and you heard from others you can't expose. Also, everything that could make you come off as rude or nosy or inappropriate should not be considered anymore.
This part is a little difficult, but go with this general rule: if they would feel bad about the reason you'd do something for them, out it goes.
4. Evaluate each thing on the list.
When you end up with a more compact list, you can start to evaluate which one/ones would have the bigger impact on their lives right now and would make them feel better and less of the negative things they are feeling.
In the end, trust your gut and go with what you feel more in sync with, but not what you're more comfortable with. It's about them, not about you!
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So, if you care so much, you can totally spend 5-10 minutes deciding on the best way to help them. And I am certain that it won't go without notice, whatever it is that you pick from the list with your best intentions, no matter how small or simple it might be.
Also, remember that the first time you do the exercise, it will take the longest. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it will feel. You will soon reach a level when you won't need a pen and paper to write things down anymore and you'll be able to go through the whole exercise in your head.
How would you feel if someone did this for you? Exactly! You already have the answer and the motivation you need!