Sometimes we help; sometimes we need help. Sometimes we teach; sometimes we are the student. Sometimes we follow; sometimes we lead. But the truly profound thing in each of these examples is that we are always on both sides of the continuum at the same time. The teacher learns as much from her students as she teaches. The leader who best leads remembers what it is like to be led. And when we help others, it makes us more empathic, more generous, more loving and expands our own humanity. We realize we are one. We are a community that best thrives when all work to help each other.
The potential for a loving relationship is in one embrace. The potential for peace is in forgiveness. The potential for harmony is in stillness. The potential for quality conversation is in listening.
Consider the opportunities you have to make your world and the world a better kinder place with the actions you sow today.
It is a joy to be part of a team—that synergistic thrill of brainstorming, the shared burdens and responsibilities, the excitement of seeing a project take shape. But who among us doesn’t remember a group project from grade school, perhaps, when we did more of the work while our teammates loafed? “The unfairness!” we shrieked. And, of course, once we shrieked, our partners shrieked as well. Couldn’t anyone appreciate what they were doing? And back and forth until the team spirit was gone, and everyone was just grumpy, burdened, or offended.
But if we can manage to not inject a focus on our own contributions and, instead, keep the focus on the work, isn’t it a joy to be part of a team? We have so many teams we are a part of–our families, our towns, our work, our countries, our world. Isn’t it lovely to see cooperative projects take shape? Isn’t it amazing to know that we can make a unique contribution?
The eye doesn’t complain to the foot that it isn’t doing a good enough job seeing. The back doesn’t tell the nose that it is not carrying its weight. Instead they work together, each contributing to the health and success of the body. How can we make a contribution to help get things done for good today?
It takes courage to be authentic. It is so easy to stay disconnected from our emotions, afraid to listen to the messages they give us, to put on a happy face, constantly, to be afraid to buck the crowd or disturb the status quo. But the things that upset us are clues, really, to what needs fixing. They are data points that we can take in and consider what needs help–in ourselves, in our relationships, in the world. And tuning in to the full breadth of our emotions juxtaposed against our values can help us discover how we can make contributions in our society–to unmask wrongdoing, to stand up on behalf of the vulnerable, even to advocate on behalf of those society is only too willing to throw away. Authenticity helps us find our voices and the courage even when we are afraid to put on our work boots and start walking in the direction of positive social change.
Today, in the United States, we honor our veterans and thank them for their service defending this country and its principles of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Our understanding of those concepts has evolved over time, and taken some steps back, but today let us be grateful for how far we’ve come and consider the steps that we each might take today and every day to make this country move closer to the ideals for which it stands.
The Japanese Macaques, snow monkeys, are a deeply hierarchical society, their status in the group inherited from their mothers. Living in frigid temperatures, the upper class snow monkeys spend their time in natural hot springs, leaving the rest to huddle in the snow and look on as they luxuriate. The Emperor Penguins also live in frigid conditions, huddled together, but they constantly rotate, letting those most exposed on the outside come to the center for warmth. They take turns. It keeps those in the center from overheating and those on the fringes from freezing.
Sharing is an interesting phenomenon. It’s easy to see that when a society shares its resources, the whole group benefits, but how does that play out in the human species? Do we see the benefit to the whole group from sharing what we have, or do we focus on clutching more and more into our own fists? Some humans are uniquely able, it seems, to rationalize selfish behavior even when looking directly at the needs of others. But others consider their own resources an opportunity to help others. This is true both on an individual level, and on a larger societal level. It’s an interesting matter of perspective.
Some snow monkeys, some penguins. Which are you?
What opportunities lie buried in today’s difficulties? How can we look at a problem from a different angle? When we are overwhelmed or downtrodden, it is hard to believe that things will ever be better, but we have to keep looking, keep acting, keep hoping, keep believing. What we see on the surface is such a small tip of the iceberg of all that is.
Disappointment hurts. Perhaps you tried to help somebody, and they rebuffed your attempt or you thought something was going to work out in your favor, but it didn’t. It’s easy to get defeated. But when we ground ourselves in the present moment and consider all the opportunities here, we can move past disappointment and hope for a better resolution next time. We can begin to build again.
If you look for thorns, you’ll see thorns. If you look for love, you’ll see it all around you. And if you look for opportunities to make a difference, to shower people with love, and to take a stand for all that is good and right in the world, those opportunities will be there.
What opportunities do you see in the day ahead?
Angry words. Personal attacks. It seems too common these days for someone to try to win an argument by cutting their opponent down at the knees rather than, for example, by having a good argument. But the personal attacks are just keeping everyone wounded and hurting. No progress is made. Real issues go unaddressed. Everyone suffers.
What if, instead, we try to respond to people without tensing up and bracing for impact, without turning to an angry smear, without trying to wound?
What if, even better, we look for ways to lift each other up?