Make a Difference Helping Others Each Day

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? George
Eliot

Reading the press over our recent Holiday Season, one could not help notice efforts to inject some good news in the midst of all of the regular bad that we are accustomed to. Stories of heroes helping others, random acts of kindness, and inspiring good deeds bring a smile and build a warm feeling as we shared a moment with these strangers who unselfishly chose to help others. Amazing feats accomplished by everyday people just like you and me. And sometimes those amazing feats were really nothing so amazing, more just paying attention and making an effort to positively impact a fellow human being – not super human but definitely human.

As the Holidays are also a time for reflection, I found myself reviewing past years in search of my heroic moments, those times when I had reached out to help someone in need or just been there to listen. It took some digging but I was able to discover a few good deeds rendered, none necessarily news worthy but acts of kindness just the same.

Then I thought what if I was to make a more conscious effort to make a difference by regularly helping others? If I proactively reached out might I become an unsung hero to someone not expecting such charity at that moment?

Find your own Calcutta – Sister Theresa in response to people offering to join in her “wonderful work in Calcutta”

And then on what was apparently a pretty inspirational day for me I had one additional insight. There are many needy people in my immediate area that I can reach out to and I am doing research to do just that. But there is another group. Although not technically needy, they  could surely benefit from a random act of kindness in what is often an unkind world. So I decided to begin a regular practice of reaching out to one person each day just to say hi, to let them know that they are special to me, not just on special occasions but always. Although my day tends to rocket by, I made this my personal goal. And my target list – my family and friends.

Empathy – the willingness of an observer to become part of another’s experience, to share the feeling or that experience – The Empathic Civilization

In our busy day, we find time to do everything from cleaning bathrooms to cooking dinner to doing our nails. How is it that we go for months without a brief note to someone so much more important to us than our bathroom cleanliness? Sure something newsworthy does not happen every day but that is no excuse. It is not the content of the message so much as the effort made to communicate that is appreciated. Reach out and touch someone. You know that feeling you get when you place an impromptu call to a best friend who has gone ignored for some months, they pick up the phone, and as soon as they recognize your voice, you can “feel” the smile in their voice? When you hang up after talking for however long, you ask yourself why did you wait so long to make the call and you promise yourself you will call more frequently. But do you keep your promise?

Each of us can make a difference in someone’s life just by paying a little attention and taking the initiative to reach out. For whatever reason, people may be afraid to ask for help so what a pleasant surprise when we unexpectedly brighten their day with a little act of kindness.

Having a hard time thinking of some specific good deeds to bestow upon your family and friends?

  • Send an email to someone just to catch up. The message does not have to be anything earth shaking but just a note so they know they are on your mind. Your random act, so simple to do, may catch them at a time when they can truly use a friend
  • Send flowers – 1800-FLOWERS or local florists offer all kinds of deals and themes for all occasions and at very reasonable prices (it is very competitive out there). Flowers for no reason at all can have a big impact.
  • Write a card – they do still exist and getting something in the mail other than spam will be a welcome change.
  • Pick up the phone – “why are you calling – it’s not my birthday?”
  • Post something nice on their Facebook.
  • Tweet a clever message – everyone has time to read 140 characters!

The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people ~ Vincent Van Gogh

If we wait for the perfect moment to reach out, we will miss the most important moment which is now. Distractions will invariably get in the way and our best intentions will fade into the background.

Do it now while you think of it.

I have started my “daily touches” and guess what – not a single negative experience, only family and friends happy to hear from me. Imagine my surprise!  😉

And if you happen to be on my list of family and friends – you know who you are – don’t be surprised if in the very near future, you experience an unexpected, for-no-reason-at-all, out-of-the-blue contact from yours truly. It may not be concerning the most important news in the world but since you are the most important people in the world to me, you will just have to get used to it!

Why Boomers Need To Accept Impermanence

Nothing lasts forever. Given enough time, colors fade, buildings crumble, continents shift, even suns grow cold. People around us grow up and grow old. We grow up and grow old. It is the nature of things; it is the way of life. At a logical level, we realize this. After all, boomers are smart people! And yet, despite accepting reality and despite our logical thinking, it is not always easy to remain positive as we witness and participate in this gradual decline all around us. A loss realized is a loss felt.

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone. ~ C.S. Lewis

If boomers are not careful, it is possible to become obsessed with the impermanence of life and what is taken from us, fixating on the negatives. If in the end I am going to lose everything, what is the value of anything? I don’t want to become attached since I will ultimately lose it. Relationships and commitment scares me since 50% are destined to fail – why put in the effort?

On the flip side, boomers knowledge and acceptance of the impermanence of life can be a way for us to focus on today, appreciate what we have, not take for granted our loved ones, and generally live a more complete and satisfying life.

The Challenges and the Promises

If not for the impermanence of life, I would not be able to witness my daughter growing up and becoming the beautiful woman she is. Ever changing, ever progressing, we go through the process together. It is important to remain consciously aware of what is happening and appreciate each step along the way. Together we experience her first words spoken, her first unsure steps, the start of her school career at the wise age of five, school plays where she sings her solo and I in the audience with my heart pounding in rhythm to help her succeed, graduation from high school, and so quickly after that graduation from college. Each step along the way a distinct memory and one more piece of the final puzzle that will be her life. Without change and evolution and impermanence none of this could take place.

It is through impermanence that we start each spring observing life busting out as trees bud and bloom. Leaves grow and fill out the branches and life is abundant. Then as the months pass, we notice the greens fading to yellows and reds and oranges in vibrant displays of magnificent color. We know that this change in colors indicates the coming end of summer and the arrival of winter. And ultimately, leaves fall and trees are bare and life seems to stand still. But were it not for this cycle of life we would not have colorful autumns to populate our memories.

If I can learn to appreciate the impermanence of the world, hopefully I will stop taking for granted what happens to me each day. I will wake up next to my wife and truly appreciate her for the wonderful person she is and hug her close to me. When my uncle begins his rambling discourse on the topic du jour, I will pay attention and hear what he is saying. As I drive down the road with my wife in the passenger seat, I will be conscious of her presence and the blessing of our togetherness and I will not take it for granted.

Nothing is forever so we boomers need to appreciate now:

  • Enjoy every moment with those we love
  • Respect and value every experience and everything around us
  • Appreciate what we have now – good health, a roof over our heads, enough to eat, water to drink, warmth on a cold night, protection from the storm
  • Do not take friends and family for granted
  • If we have something nice to say, say it now
  • Don’t save all of the good wine for later
  • Live your life so at the end you have no regrets

Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

Because of impermanence and the ever-changing world in which we live, bad weather storms in and then moves on, anger rises and abates, tears well up and then dry, and hope springs up in the most unlikely of places. Boomers need to learn to appreciate the value of impermanence. If I am healthy now, I will do what I can to maintain that health. Knowing that life itself is impermanent, I will appreciate each experience that much more. For each moment, I will be thankful, engaged, appreciative, and above all I will live and love that moment.