The above quote is one of my absolute favorites. The idea expressed in this short poem is such a beautiful one, in my opinion, & one that I think is so overlooked in our world these days. It isn’t very often that we run into a situation where we are taught to ask for nothing in return for something that we have done. When we think about those who have given their all & humbly received nothing for their gifts we think of Jesus… & maybe Santa Claus… & that’s about it. While it may be true that most people have (hopefully) been raised to share, & to mind their manners, & to treat others with respect, those values are usually accompanied with the promise that one day those actions will catch up with them. The hope is that even if you don’t receive instant gratification for recycling someone else’s paper cup, or writing them an encouraging note, or lending them a kidney, that at some point down the road the favor will be returned in one way or another. We hope that someone will notice our good deeds, & be impressed by them & compliment us on our honorable character. We want to know that after we put in the effort to care for another person or take time out of our incredibly important & unbelievably busy lives, that we will receive something that will make it all “worth the while”. We want recognition, & thanks, & good karma to come our way.
It isn’t often that we are inclined to do a good deed for someone else, when we are certain that no one is watching. We love having an audience there to notice what a good person we are, & to see how loving & selfless our actions are. And of course this isn’t to say that serving in a soup kitchen, or helping someone push a stalled car across the road, or buying a coffee for someone in line behind you is a bad thing. Public acts of service are wonderful as well. If everyone did their good deeds in private we would never have anyone working at food banks & or cooking meals for a neighbor going through a tough time, or hosting group homes to get kids off the streets. So of course, service of any kind is a beautiful thing. But I was once challenged by a mentor & friend to spend a whole week, going out of my way do perform as many little acts of kindness as I could… a not telling a single person about it. I was challenged to keep that warm & fuzzy feeling (the one you get when you know you are acting for a larger reason than yourself) to myself. She told me that even if I had an amazing experience performing this act of service & I wanted to humbly tell someone what happened, that I should challenge myself to keep it inside completely. To dwell on that feeling & truly experience what it is like to do something for someone else, & know that you will never be thanked for it. Needless to say, this wasn’t easy. To be honest, I can’t tell you now whether or not I was successful in my endeavor to make someone’s day a little easier without anyone else knowing. It is not an easy thing to lower your pride enough to give your precious time or money, freely, without blurting out your achievement or excitement (which I’m almost positive I did every time), or whatever other feeling you have as a result.
My friend had explained it to me along these lines… Even if your intentions are humble & truly brought on by a genuine giving spirit, & you aren’t expecting a single “thank you”, or gift, or good thing to come your way, most people will instinctively feel obligated to pay another person back in some way or another. Pride is a trait that most of us have instilled deep into our very being, & because of this there is a general tendency to want to give back whatever we can to those who help us out, whether we have the means to do so or not, so that we don’t feel as though we can’t provide for ourselves or our families. Most people are not comfortable simply accepting help or encouragement without returning some kind of thanks.
Sometimes people really do need a friend to physically be there, who can offer nothing more than a shoulder to cry on, or a listening ear. But at other times, an anonymous note of encouragement or helping hand in some way or another is more than enough to help someone get through the day.
This week I’m going to try and actually take on this challenge, successfully this time. Obviously I won’t post about how it goes, because that completely defeats the purpose of keeping things quiet :) But if you made it all the way through this rambling post, I’d challenge you to try it, too! It’s a very interesting & eye opening process.
Happy Sunday everyone! And good luck on giving like Jesus & Santa Claus :)