It is so easy to get caught up in our own little lives and forget the needs of others and what they may be suffering even on a so-called "normal" day. Then when disaster strikes, sometimes repeatedly, we are shaken awake. It is my hope that our compassion will continue to be fueled by these circumstances and that we will do whatever we can to help lift each other up. And hopefully such responses can become the norm, instead of depending on a disaster, natural or otherwise, to keep them going.
I am often astounded by my good fortune and how things sometimes seem to just fall into place. I am also reminded that such events have a cause and effect and that it is often up to me to cause an effect for someone else. What can I do today to make even a small change in someone's life? Sometimes it is as simple as being kind or friendly to a stranger in the elevator. I know that it makes a difference to me when someone is polite, as opposed to when they ignore me or dismiss me. Gordon B. Hinckley expresses this well when he says, "The smallest gesture can mean so much to those who need a little lift in their lives."
What would happen if I use the elevator as an experimental capsule in which I am simply kind and positive, a place where I can provide my fellow floor travelers with a tiny uplifting experience? And if I am successful there, what then could I accomplish in the larger environment of the hotel lobby? The porch outside? The sidewalk? The grocery store? The gym?
Bernard Meltzer says, "There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up." This is something we can all do, in both large and small ways. Stepeh Covey says, "Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity." When circumstances are such that almost everyone we encounter is in need some way, let us remind ourselves not only to respond, but to reach out, and if we can't truly lift another up, at least we can metaphorically cushion their fall.
Each day David and I start the morning by sharing something we have read. We use it as a source of contemplation, and often it becomes a guide for how to simply approach the day. Today we read, "Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole life becomes a miracle." (Tony Robbins) I will try to use these words today--not only when I get out into public, but as I putter around my apartment. Since we have divested ourselves of most of our material goods, cleaning our apartment is simple and quick. And the acquisition of anything that enhances our lives, even something as simple as a suction-cup hook from the dollar store that secures my potholder to the wall by the stove becomes a small treasure as it allows me to keep everything in is place.
I find it necessary to examine my life intensely each day. This includes both a close look at my own internal struggle and my place in the world around me. This give and take has become a natural way to progress through the day. As Sylvia Plath writes, "I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again." It really is as simply as that. Why would I choose to stumble through life with no awareness, when the alternative is to live deliberately?
Because I can't walk today to clear my mind (the air quality index is in the danger level due to the nearby wildfires), this blog is necessary as a launchpad for how I will proceed once I close my laptop. I will intentionally practice appreciation, first by being thankful that the weather is cooler today, we may get a little rain tomorrow, and the air is expected to be cleaner by Friday. Let me never look on a forest, or for that matter, a single tree, without the appreciation that it is not being consumed by fire.
I am aware that such ideas can be hard to hold onto. Without intent, they can vanish as quickly as a puff of smoke. So let me use these observations to fuel my appreciation each day by refocusing and practicing. When one can truly do that, everything in the universe becomes a potential pivot point for change in a positive direction. I will close today with this: