By Neal Lemery
The daily news can be overwhelming, and often paralyzes me into a state of inaction, frustration, and disappointment on how I fit in. I wonder if my life really has meaning. Nothing I can do will make a difference, part of my brain rationalizes, pushing me into idleness and despondency.
I have to work hard to countermand that kind of thinking, which is ineffective and against all of my values and spirituality. I bring value to the world. Everyone does. Creating change and spreading love is the essence of my purpose on this planet. Yet, the negativity and depressive energy seems to be persistent and ever-present.
Others, with great wisdom, take on this feeling, this social attitude that often seems pervasive. They turn it around and urge us to be proactive, to initiate change by engaging with others. And, often that work is not a shout out to the entire world, but quiet, thoughtful work, one on one, giving an individual some attention and direction.
Oprah’s new book, The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose, is a delightful and inspiring collection of quotes and short essays on empowering yourself to change your attitude and the world.
“When you know, teach. When you get, give.” – Maya Angelou.
We are all teachers and givers. That is what we are here for, the purpose of life. As a child, I found great joy in life in simply being with others. The greatest satisfactions came with experiences with others. Sharing, giving, teaching, it is all the same, moving us towards our purpose, our life force of one’s love to others. I often get side-tracked, and forget that profound lesson I learned as a child.
When we give, when we teach, when we share of ourselves to others, that spreads out into the world, like a pebble tossed into a pond. The good from that rebounds back to us, often in ways we may not recognize or even be aware. And, often that echoing is seen many years later, our initial altruistic act nearly forgotten.
The time frame for that fits no pre-conceived schedule or expectation. Often, I sense that “return on investment” as a surprise, a new, unexpected gift back to me.
At other times, my investment seems like a poor choice. The recipient of my attention, my nurturance and loving, acts out with meanness, anger, and multiple acts of self and social destruction and violence. I see numerous acts of narcissistic rage and self-harm, a desire to “win at all cost”.
The addictions of this world, be it drugs, violence, selfishness, or other toxins, often can seem to be the winners on the battlefields people create to try to make it through our lives. I can’t change the world by having bigger, more deadly weapons in my arsenal. Such escalation only increases the casualty lists and leaves the world poorer, more broken. Hatred is a no-win answer for any problem. And, it turns me into a nasty, vitriolic shell of my true self.
“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” – Eldridge Cleaver.
If I am patient, and understanding, and willing to step to the side and let the storms of rage and loathing pass by, the inherent goodness can still be found in the ashes of the outcomes of frustration and acting out. In those moments, there is often a “sweet moment” of opportunity.
I try to turn it around, and rather than fling my own spears and shoot my own arrows of hostility and rage, I get in touch with my own gentle side, and respond with compassion, patience, and reaching out to them.
Such an approach is not without its challenges. But, I’m stubborn and persistent in my own path of being an instrument of change.
A few words of kindness, a smile, a warm and welcoming handshake can be disarming. If the recipient of my outreach responds with a look of need or even acknowledgement of my message, then the communication has begun, and the path of their day of anger and rage has been changed.
Just listening, with compassion, is a revolutionary act.
People do change. It is often a small change, but it IS a change, an alteration, a glimpse of an alternative on how one should feel, how the day can be navigated in a different way, even in developing a vision on living an intentional, purposeful life based upon love.
Perhaps in those small acts, I am a rebel, a revolutionary, going in a direction that isn’t what is expected of me, or the place in this world other people perceive I should occupy.
“You reap what you sow.”
I can be the good farmer, the good steward of my own heart and its bounty. If I take care of my own little corner of the world, and let my garden grow, then I can later share my harvest with the world.
When I reach out to someone and suspend judgement and bias, if I give of myself and my life force, then I’m being genuine, real, and open. That person I’m in touch with gets the real me, a person striving to be an honest, straight-forward bit of love and care, with all of my own imperfections and challenges.
Like all of us, I’m a work in progress.
That gift of me can help fill an empty spot, ease a pain, help heal a wound, even start a conversation.
“Someone cares” can also be a very powerful, world-changing message, a key ingredient in letting another person move closer to their true potential, and find an easier path to their own peacefulness and gentleness.
We all need to heal. There are more than enough wounds in life that need to heal, to ease the pain in our hearts, to feel that we truly belong to our community, that our own life matters and has purpose.
I can make a difference. I am valued for what I do, who I am, and what I can contribute to others.
“Give to this world what you want to receive from the world, because that is what you will receive.” –Gary Zukov
Neal Lemery – community volunteer, author and blogger neallemery.com
Books: Finding My Muse on Main Street, Homegrown Tomatoes, and Mentoring Boys to Men