“You gotta watch this.”
This, from a client who was rebuilding his life following a stint in jail and ten weeks of treatment for substance use. It was a simple video of a college graduation, with a question that brought me to tears.
How am I living?
I continue to ask myself this question. For me, it is simple: do I help or do I hurt? I believe that most interactions with the world can be classified into helping or hurting. Don’t over think it. If you see trash blowing around in the park, do you pick it up even though it’s not yours? That’s helping. When you let the door slam shut in someone’s face at the gas station, that’s hurting.
When I ask myself how I am living, I hope it’s helping. I know that this is not always possible. We all have bad days. We all get into funks and moods and just don’t feel like doing anything good. And with the way the world is right now, it can be just plain hard to help out. It seems to be much easier to hurt, as evidenced by people complaining on social media, pointing fingers at other people, making a bigger mess of the planet.
I would argue that helping is exactly what would make us feel better. It feels good to help other people, especially when it is unexpected and really makes a difference. This can be as simple as dropping a card in the mail, shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk, offering to grab milk at the store for an ill family member. It’s about doing something good and not expecting anything in return. And it feels wonderful!
Because you know it feel so wonderful, consider the flip side. When you allow other people to help you out you are inadvertently helping them out, too. You’re allowing them to feel wonderful because they get make a difference for you. It’s a gift that works both ways. Case in point: kids like to feel important and needed. I ask my own children to help with dinner, set the table, get the door for me, etc., and when they do, I make sure to let them know how much their help made my life a little easier and better. Their proud smiles make it all worthwhile.
So the next time you have an opportunity to make someone else’s life easier and better, just do it when and if you can. I ask you:
How are you living?