It’s that time of year again and for those of us who still go to the malls rather than exclusively shop on line for Christmas gifts we often see the suspended red buckets and hear the tinkling bell by the folks who brave the weather while encouraging us to drop in our loose change to help the needy during this yearly fundraising effort. Since we have heard of some charitable organizations who have high overheard costs we may wonder if the money we put in the buckets actually ends up going to those less fortunate. The answer for this organization is a resounding YES! (To check this out further – or any other ‘fact’ or rumor regarding a wealth of topics go to Snopes.com as your fact-checker. It’s a great information equalizer!
The Salvation Army sponsors the Kettle Campaign which starts in November and ends on Christmas Eve. It is their main income stream and raises 70% of the yearly dollars needed to support food distribution, meal programs, shelters, emergency assistance and even Christmas toys for the underprivileged children in our communities. Nearly all of the bell ringers are volunteers. The charity does occasionally hire people in some areas of the country where there is a scarcity of volunteers. Typically these folks are from homeless shelters who are down on their luck. They may have few marketable skills but have a desire to work and help themselves. Look into their eyes and you will see people who have dealt with immeasurable struggles in life but are trying. To further clarify the process the red donation buckets are only opened and the collection counted by an employee when it is returned back to the main center in the evening. Knowing this information should help us feel more confident when deciding whether to reach into our pockets and dig a bit deeper. This organization is the real deal and does amazing things for people in need. What it doesn’t do well is advertise. Why? Because advertising costs money! (Maybe there is something to be said of charitable organizations who can afford to advertise continually!) Let’s help the Salvation Army by sharing this information about them with others.
The topic of charitable donations is a challenging one. In a recent study by Slovic published by ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ the data indicated that we are psychologically motivated (akin to being mentally wired) to help only one person at a time and that our compassion seems to fade when even two or more people are involved! Following this logic, getting people to give to an anonymous bell ringer becomes even more of a challenge. Maybe a ‘Thank you for your effort’ and a smile from us to them is in order as we drop our donations into their small red buckets.
The irony of Slovic’s finding is that other research has repeatedly shown that the giver – the compassionate person in life – is ultimately a happier individual compared to the person who just wants more for themselves. This latter group are easily recognized …they quickly dismiss any charitable donation with the statement, ‘They’re all alike….the money doesn’t really go to the needy etc. etc.’ The rest of us see right through their statements as simply excuses to hold on tightly to what they have – rather like Ebenezer Scrooge before he saw the light! A person with even a modicum of caring for others finds reasons to give rather than reasons to turn away. Their humanity proceeds them as they smile their way into tomorrow. We can recognize them a mile away as they offer a hand up to others.
The next time we hear the sound of the ringing bell let’s personalize it by thinking of someone we know or even someone we have seen on the street that looked like they needed a good hot meal (Tiny Tim comes to mind) and visualize our donation going to them. The Universe has a way of putting our intent into action. Our coins or dollars will flow more freely and we’ll be happier from the inside out as the miracle of Christmas – the sharing and caring – magnifies.
Have a great few days!
Lending a hand, occasionally, to help others in time of need is important. After all, we find joy and reward in knowing that we have been instrumental in helping someone through a crisis. As with everything in life the ultimate issue is one of balance. At some point we might have to evaluate our efforts and decide how much time or emotional and financial support we are offering. Is it still enabling them to grow and become all they can be or has our involvement become so frequent that they now rely on us to solve their next problem or guide their next step. It’s so hard for givers to accept the reality that it may be time to back off and let someone that they care for experience the stress and challenge of their own circumstance. But when we are strong enough to stop ‘fixing’ we’ll see them experience the ultimate pride and self confidence that comes from wrestling with and overcoming their latest issue.
Life is tough and each of us has had to face a boat load of challenges and uncertainties. Some may have temporarily stopped us in our tracks. What caused us to persevere and learn resiliency in the process? Could it have been that help was no longer available or we chose to work it out ourselves by thinking ‘if it’s going to be it’s up to me?’
As givers we feel good inside when we see relief spread over the face of an individual we care about. Yet, we really do know intuitively when we are contributing to a person’s growth and when we have morphed into the role of an emotional or financial crutch. When we are brutally honest with ourselves we can admit when our ‘hand up’ has become a pattern or been reduced to simply a ‘hand out.’ It may be easier to say ‘Yes’ yet much more powerful to accept it when it is time to say ‘Enough.’
Maybe the lesson in all of this is actually ours. After all you can’t blame someone for continuing to ask or rely on you if you have established the pattern of being the ‘fixer in charge.’ We may even try to trick ourselves into believing that ‘they didn’t actually ask but we simply offered.’ Really? There are a multitude of ways to ask without verbalizing it. Taken to an extreme we may even justify our help by saying we have more or we can work harder to help ‘this time.’ But maybe – just maybe – we are unwittingly eroding their belief in themselves and causing them to become dependent on us.
Could it be that true love and caring for another is shown when we recognize if a defeating behavioral habit has been established and are strong enough to stop being complicit? It’s hard to break this habit of being there, continual giving or even rescuing someone we care about yet don’t we owe it to them?
Ultimate caring results when we are presented with an issue by someone we care about and rather than jumping in to fix it we ask them, simply and gently, ‘What is your plan?’ We show them that we have confidence in their ability to overcome. That’s heady stuff! Don’t expect to be able to do this the first time without feeling guilty. Breaking the habit of being the ‘fixer in charge’ is difficult. We may even wonder if they will ultimately hold it against us. That’s always a risk but if you love them – truly love them – set them free to experience their own trials and tribulations in life. If they come back to you it will be with a new found pride of accomplishment and resiliency in themselves that will last a lifetime.
Letting go of the fixing habit is hard but holding on past an expiration date is not healthy for anyone concerned.
Have a great few days!
Learning our individual soul lessons in this lifetime is not easy. Any one of them could be compared to the class you had in school that you had to really work at passing and then even at completion of the class didn’t feel confident in the content area. Upon receiving the final passing grade you may have even chosen to take the class again or learn more about the topic on your own until you could exhale and say to yourself, ‘Now, I finally get it.’ As we live out our life lessons a similar thing occurs. At first we wonder why things seem to keep popping up as roadblocks, detours or simply additional challenges. Eventually we realize that those very issues that continue to surface in our lives are the exact things we need to push against, work around or get over to allow us to fully learn a particular lesson.
When we recognize the lesson as presented to us we have the choice to internalize it and move on with deeper understanding allowing us to be of greater service to ourselves and others or not. When we accept that the issue of blame or feeling that we were wronged was simply a way for us to challenge ourselves to be stronger, more confident and to accept the realization that there are no mistakes in our choices but simply different avenues to learn our lessons we are making progress. The ultimate lesson, of course, being, ‘All Is As It Should Be.’
We have been given the gift of free will in life. There are no right or wrong choices just different pathways to the same destination that we chose long ago. Once we learn a lesson we move forward with greater confidence and joy.
Is it possible that one lesson for us could be to be strong enough to allow others to learn their own lessons? Sometimes we are so busy trying to help others that we miss the point that maybe, just maybe, by continuously picking up the pieces for them we may be impeding their own growth. When do we know that it is the right time to back off and let others handle their own unique lessons? Actually, it’s easier than we think. We all recognize the feeling in our hearts through our intuitive sense when we are going overboard with others. A tell tale sign is when the same thing happens over and over and we begin to resent our involvement. This feeling can serve as a wake up call to us to let go and let them face their own lessons and learn from them. Are we strong enough to risk the possible momentary ill feelings when we finally get up enough courage to say, ‘I can’t do this for you.’
Our life lessons involve learning to love more fully – ourselves as well as others. Do we love ourselves enough to say ‘enough’ – do we love others enough to say ‘I can’t learn this lesson for you.’ Growth in life lessons is a beautiful thing. Let’s do what we can to learn our own and let others learn their own as well.
Have a great few days!
How many times have we thought when observing a person or situation, ‘that is not normal.’ Or better yet, how many times have we thought another person is not doing things right or correctly …according to what we judge to be so. The operative word here, of course, is JUDGE. If we are honest with ourselves, most or all of us would say, yes I do that frequently when what I see or hear doesn’t match MY definition of regular or normal. My question to you then is what do you define as normal? Do you think your definition is the only right one possible? Is there any flexibility in your interpretation of the word?
By definition, normal is stated to be ‘conforming to a standard, usual, regular or natural – a common behavior in society.’ However – and this is the biggie here – the definition of normality varies by person, time, place, situation and changes with societal standards and norms. In other words, ‘normal’ is intended to be a FLEXIBLE concept by definition. Yet we seem to define the word using a rigid standard according to what we are comfortable with at the moment. That sort of makes us judge and jury for everyone and everything in life doesn’t it? We place others unwittingly in an untenable situation because they are not meeting our own arbitrary standard of normal. Trust me on this one, they can feel your judgment and negative energy and will react accordingly. That is a rather dangerous or hurtful place to be don’t you think?
I believe defining normal is rather like defining beauty. It is in the eyes of the beholder as long as no one is hurt in the process. Each of us has a right to decide what works best for us without fear of reprisal or condemnation. It is sort of one of those inalienable rights given to us by a power much greater than ourselves.
If we allow ourselves to see the behaviors of others as ‘not normal’ that implies that something in their behavior needs to be corrected. But if we haven’t walked in their shoes and understand what they are coping with, how can we possibly believe that we are so smart, powerful or wise to determine what is normal or right for them? Could it be that what we are observing is simply a temporary or ‘normal’ state in reaction to that person’s circumstances at the moment. Could it be that they need understanding and acceptance and are just waiting to see if we are willing to get out of our own comfort zone and give it to them?
I believe that we would all be happier in our individual life journeys if we consciously worked at accepting others as we want to be accepted – without value judgments or conditions. The bottom line is that we are all seeking the same thing – unconditional love and understanding as we proceed on our paths. What we give we receive in return – no more no less.
Have a great few days!
We each have our own moral compass consisting of our personal standards, values, and beliefs that have been formed from childhood and enlarged upon as we experience life. The values on our compass are the touchstones that are sacred to us as individuals. For example, concepts such as honesty, compassion and integrity are just a few areas that may constitute our moral compass. What five words would you choose to list on your moral compass? Which one concept is your true north, the most important of all the other values? The one you simply cannot compromise and remain true to yourself?
Although we all have our own moral compass we are interdependent on each other for survival. If we think about the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the energy we use to heat our homes or drive our cars, other human beings were involved in delivering to us what we needed to survive. It takes all of us to contribute our own unique skill set, working within our own moral compass, for the world to work.
We are inherently good, well-intentioned folks. We give and take from the banquet before us and try to make the world a little better place during our extended stay here. The challenge seems to be when values on our own moral compass conflict with values on the moral compass of others. What do we do when we disagree with the values that others seem to hold as their true north?
As individuals, it seems natural to have different priorities, different sacred cows. This can work well as long as we stay committed to improvement to society as a whole. However, if we allow ourselves to fall into indifference and not hold ourselves or others accountable for hypocrisy or benefit to personal vested interest rather than society as a whole than our system, our moral compass, begins to be negatively effected and we all lose.
It takes time to help a friend or loved one who is seeking input and yet, the time spent seems to be in direct proportion to the value we place on our human experience. How much time are you willing to give to help another? It also takes time to have your voice heard on political, economic or other areas. Time is the ultimate compliment you can offer to another person or cause. Who knows, you might just have a positive effect on the world. It’s worth a try.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ” It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Have a great few days!
It is said that when a person is near death they have a greater clarity of purpose as they reflect back on their lives. We are also told in our Hospice training that people die as they live. The first time I heard that I was a bit puzzled. Now, a couple of years into my volunteer work it has become clearer to me. I have the opportunity to hear this clarity first hand as I listen to them relive the important moments in their lives. What I hear is about love of family and friends and the times when something happened that just took their breath away. It’s about whether they feel they made the world a little better off by being in it. Basically, it is all about gratitude for being a part of this experience we call life on planet earth. I don’t hear people worrying about how much they have accumulated or how much, in real dollars, they are worth. They seem to realize at this life changing time in their lives that what we do and think on a individual level really does affect not only ourselves but the entire world. Their hindsight is, indeed, 20/20. They seem to just know that we are all made up of energy and what we think and speak about most often comes back to us triple fold. Our thoughts really are the key to life and open or close all doors for us. If there is a yearning from these wonderful folks, it is to help the world understand the importance of loving others and lending a hand to someone in need. I am so fortunate to be in this classroom of life called the Hospice experience. It makes living that much more meaningful. You can see first hand that the entire world really has a very deep energy connection.
Our lives can be about so much more than just getting by or getting ours. Do you know of someone that has recently gone through a life transition or is struggling? If so, did you take the time to show them that you are concerned about them. If you don’t know what to say, that’s easy… simply, ” I care and I’m here for you,” is enough. It could be the lifeline they need at that precise moment to make it through another day.The Hallmark people are right, it’s never too late to show someone how much you care. Sooner or later we will all be at the end point in our lives on earth and will see with greater clarity what our lives represented. Let it be about compassion, gratitude and love. As I said in my book, love is the Alpha and Omega of the Universe.
Have a great few days!