Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Run errands. Answer phones. Make calls. Do paperwork. Check emails. Go to bed. Repeat.
Sadly this trend of busy-ness has seemed created a society of isolationists. Though all together in our communities, we are guarded and separated by the personal walls we build ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously. The fabric of US society is plagued by distrust and closed hearts. There are pockets of people who have maintained a sense of community and open hearts toward others, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Traveling on public transportation, walking in malls and city streets, everywhere I see people avoiding eye contact, absorbed in their mobile devices, looking away or avoiding contact with anyone new or unknown to them. Multitudes of people acting all alone in a crowd.
So, why is this important? Why should we care about reaching out to others? Why should we try to trust and accept people we don’t know? There is considerable risk in giving the benefit of the doubt to people whom we do not know. We have grown accustomed to shielding ourselves within our own worlds of thoughts, desires, fears, and doubts. The only time we suddenly open up and eagerly look for new neighbors is when we need help, but then who would be there? We get so wrapped up in our perceived obligations or priorities, often misplaced priorities, and forget that opportunities lie with people. Relationships of all kinds are a high risk high reward kind of game. Those who refuse to play the game, shut people out and try to do everything on their own often live very lonely, difficult lives, bearing the weight of all burdens by themselves and missing out on so many opportunities for better lives, careers or relationships that could have given them a richer and fuller life.
There are villages in Africa, and other areas of the world, who struggle with poverty and illness more than the US, yet live more fulfilled lives because they cultivate the relationships that ease the burdens and bind together the community. If a pregnant woman goes into labor, her neighbors quickly respond to help with the delivery on the spot no matter the time or inconvenience. If their neighbors need food, the community is more than willing to share. The burdens of all families are born by all, which helps the life and survival of the community and individuals. Everyone does their part, works hard, but overall, they care for others above any sense of entitlement. It is not the tangible things that make life truly worth living. The tangible things are the tools given to us to steward wisely and use to exponentially propagate good throughout the world, and in our own neighborhoods. The tools and material possessions are important and it is not bad to enjoy wealth, but it must be kept in perspective. The intangible things, like relationships, compassion, acts of service and sacrifice, sharing joy and pain, and creating that ever needed sense of community, belonging and love for one another, these are the things that make eternal impact on the world and in individual lives. The intangible things are where the real power of change and quality of life can be found, and the tangible things are meant to enhance that purpose and focus. All too often we get those priorities backwards.
There is a balance. It is equally harmful to go too far to either extreme, to say that no one should have extreme wealth, or to say that the poor should fend for themselves and take a survival of the fittest attitude. Both come from an attitude of entitlement. Let those who have worked hard, learned systems and contributed value enjoy the wealth that they have earned, it would not be right to take if from them just because it’s much more than others have. Let those who have much be generous and charitable to help others get on their feet and improve their lives. Let those who have little learn the necessary things that can enable them to improve their own situation without feeling entitled to handouts. There is a big difference between a handout and a hand up. The best gift is to give a person only what they need to learn to take care of themselves and earn their own salary and rewards. It is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish. As the saying goes, “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.” It is important to build a sense of community and belonging so that we can all contribute and learn to provide value to those around us. There is no one of any status that should be exempt from providing value to their community. We have all been given special gifts, strengths and talents, some of which people may not even be aware that they have. Teach each other to find all the unique gifts they’ve been given that they can use to give back and help themselves and others. Do not give hand outs, give a hand up to people in need, but no matter what, act and speak with love so that people understand that you care.
The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is very true. Don’t be the person that chooses not to care first. Be the first to care and you will be the first to receive help from others when you are in a time of need. Remember how lonely it is to be so isolated from others in your own society and community? We ignore each other until we need help, then where do we turn? Have you met your neighbors? Have you started conversations with strangers on the bus, train, or plane? Have you done something nice for someone you don’t know? How have you treated employees who have served you and been polite, or someone who was kind enough to open a door for you or let you cut in line? When was the last time you did something like that? Do you take these small gestures for granted, or do you find ways to show clear appreciation to the people who give to you? Make new friends everywhere you go. Make it important in your own mind and effort to remember people’s names. Take the time to call, write or even send a hello text to people to let them know you care about them and thought of them. It doesn’t have to be much, but little connections and kindnesses done frequently add up to a big difference. Think how the local community, national society and the world could be if everyone adopted an attitude of service to others and no one allowed themselves to feel entitled to special treatment and not offer any value themselves.
The Utopia that so many people want is not one where people get everything they want without earning it, nor equality without merit. A Utopia cannot exist with an attitude of feeling you deserve the same rewards and lifestyle as someone else. If someone has what you want, then connect with them, and ask them to teach you how they earned what they have. The Utopia that people want can only exist when everyone begins to take on a spirit of humility and compassion toward everyone else. When people become willing to open up and make everyone a potential new friend. When people realize that they have value to offer and strive to cultivate that so that they can make life better not only for themselves, but also for others. It is a give and take system rooted in love, not entitlement. Motives are important, so make sure they are uplifting and honorable. You cannot control what other people do, but you can control what you do, and how you respond to others. Always respond in ways that encourage people to care and gain hope in the power of community and friendship. Jesus didn’t say, “love your neighbor as yourself” just because He thought is was a nice sentiment. He said it because He knows that is the best way to create a universal life worth living for everyone.
If you don’t take the initiative to create community and connections where you are, no one else will do it for you, and you will miss so many opportunities that can only be found in the treasure troves of other people’s minds and connections. Networking is how we learn about great jobs, great resources, great friends, great living arrangements, etc. You never know who or what someone else knows, so keep people close, as many as you can, so that when you need help, they’ll be there, and when they need help, you be there. We can only do so much individually, but collectively, the possibilities are endless! Never doubt the power of what you can contribute as an individual, but don’t carry the weight of the whole world on your own shoulders either. Jesus already did that, so let Him and other people help you with the rest.
Build community. Be teachable. Provide value. Have an attitude of service. Give a hand up not a handout. Ask for help. Check your motives. Imitate those you admire and have the success you desire. Do not allow yourself to feel entitled. Treat others with love and compassion always.
Apply these concepts to improve your life, and dare to follow your dreams!
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