Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.
I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.
Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.
Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.
When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”
Worries, sorrows and pains are frequent characters in life’s ever unfolding drama, often making our days feel more like a tragedy rather than a romance or comedy. They stand in our way, trip us up or block our view. They discourage us and prevent us from searching out the light, laughter and love that is just beyond the gloom. They encourage us to follow their lead or worse, simply be the audience and not the director of our own play.
These actors of drama and tragedy are essential to our play of life, but they should not block us from the other actors essential for a balanced performance. Pushing past these dramatic characters requires effort. Just beyond their shoulders, we can find opportunities for the joy they are trying to hide from us. Sometimes it takes work to pull back the curtains of trouble and reveal, through service, the joy and laughter we seek.
A great man taught this principle two millennia ago. Whether you believe him to be a savior or simply a prophet, he taught that the trials of life could be lessened by learning of him, of the things he did, and the promises he made. His mission was one of service and his lessons taught compassion over worldliness. Our worries, sorrows and pains, or in other words, our burdens would be made light if we emulated him and served our fellow man. He did not promise they would be removed, just that they would be made more bearable.
He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”*