I’ve never been great about making time for service. At least that’s the story I’ve always told myself. I say this because I rarely make time to volunteer. My excuse is “I’m too busy.” I am definitely busy, but is that really why I don’t?
Or is it that I’m just not motivated? Or is the reason something even deeper? Like some kind of deeply etched pattern of feeling the need to take care of myself before I take care of others?
Many people who become parents will tell you how it helped them become less selfish—it’s the first time they’ve had to really learn how to put someone else’s needs first. My take? Meh, I’m still the same selfish asshole.
Oh it helps a little, but all it really does is widen the circle of self-centeredness a little to include another being. It’s a great thing, but for me it’s incremental and not a big move to true selflessness.
I’ve carried this story about giving with me for some time. Then three very
insignificant small moments happened.
#1 I was walking into a building and held the door for a stranger, and afterward I smiled. But I noticed that smile came from somewhere deeper inside and radiated out of me.
#2 I was walking behind somebody and noticed a glove on the ground, and picked it up and asked them if they had dropped it (which they had). They thanked me, and I felt this little rush of joy.
#3 I was walking out and a person behind me told me my backpack was unzipped. I thanked them genuinely, and felt this little rush of joy.
My life is peppered with all sorts of these kinds of moments. Small acts of kindness. Seemingly insignificant acts of giving and heartfelt receiving. It’s not that I haven’t noticed these in the past. What was different was I noticed a subtlety… these tiny interactions were accompanied by a genuine joy that welled up from within.
That little rush of joy came and went so quickly that I see how it would normally get lost in the shuffle and go unnoticed in the typical state of being—the one characterized by rushing around in a hurry, lost in thought. Maybe because I’ve been meditating so much lately I was more attuned to catch it, and to see how the positive feeling came from a completely different place.
Giving feels really good. We all know this. Even in the backpack moment where I was the recipient of kindness, what made me feel so good was seeing how the man’s helpfulness made him smile and feel good.
To give is to love, and to love is the essence of being fully human.
So why don’t I give more?
Help one person at a time. And always start with the person nearest you. – Mother Teresa