Today I want to outline a principal from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It is something I hope to do more of and that I admittedly have neglected for some time; not in its entirety, just in its frequency. It is the principal of selflessly serving others. I took time to ponder on this chapter when I read it, because I wanted to make sure I understood what I really needed to do.
First of all, I will elaborate on what the principal is about. In the book, Julian says, "One of the most essential of all of the virtues for enlightened living that I can share with you, John, is this one: when all is said and done, no matter what you have achieved, no matter how many summer homes you own, no matter how many cars sit in your driveway, the quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution."
As a young child I was an avid church goer, I was part of a youth group and I belonged to a close-knit congregation. In that time of my life, I would volunteer at the drop of a hat and I was head server (otherwise known as an altar-boy or altar-girl in my case). I often would jump at the chance to help at a nursing home or to serve during the hot dog lunch following the service, but as I grew older some things changed. Now, I'm not saying change is negative, in fact, it is incredibly positive, but I think I just lost sight of a few key elements for a while. With age came freedom, but also responsibility. It was up to me to really look back at where things changed and why. I won't return to the person that I was at that time, for I happen to like who I am now, but I can re-incorporate some qualities and values that have been dormant for a while. One day a time.
To improve our quality of life we have to change our perspective as to why we are here on Earth. We have to look at the gifts and talents we are given and what they are meant to do for others. We are not only individuals...we are part of the collective. It is in being good to ourselves and others that we can truly do the good work we were meant to do on this Earth.
I'm not suggesting we all quit our jobs, move to Africa and build schools (unless that is what you really want/need to do!), I am talking about starting small. It could be anything from letting a car into your lane during a busy traffic jam or helping someone carry heavy groceries. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we are all joined in some way, and by helping a fellow human being, we are making strides in the right direction for someone else and also for ourselves.
I have thought about why I really do what I do and why I have been given the gifts I have been given. For the longest time I thought I was given the gift of a voice/presence on stage solely to entertain, but it is much more than that. I have the ability to sing from my soul and I know that in doing this, I have the ability to touch other souls. Music is incredibly healing (this point is even brought up in TMWSHF) so theoretically, I am a healer. I do my job because I love it and I excel at it, yes, but I know why that is. I don't keep my gift for myself and hide it behind closed doors, I stand on a stage in front of an audience and I share it. To entertain, to soothe, and to heal.
Let me share a story with you from the book that might really hit home. Honestly, it made me pretty emotional.
There was once an old woman whose loving husband died. So she went to live with her son and his wife and daughter. Every day, the woman's sight grew worse, and her hearing grew worse. Some days her hands trembled so badly the peas on her plate rolled onto the floor and the soup ran from her cup. Her son and his wife couldn't help but be annoyed at the mess she made, and one day they said enough was enough. So they set up a little table for the old woman in a corner next to the broom closet and made her eat all of her meals there, alone. She would look at them at mealtimes with tear-filled eyes from across the room, but they hardly talked to her while they ate, except to scold her for dropping a spoon or a fork. One evening, just before dinner, the little girl was sitting on the floor playing with her building blocks. "What are you making?" her father asked earnestly. "I'm building a little table for you and mother," she said, "so you can eat by yourselves in the corner someday when I get big." The father and mother were moved to silence for what seemed like an eternity. Then they started to weep. In that instant they became aware of the nature of their actions and the sadness they has caused. That night they led the old woman back to her rightful place at their big dinner table and from that day on she ate all her meals with them. And when a little morsel of food fell off the table or a fork strayed onto the floor, nobody seemed to mind anymore.
After reading this, I realized I was picturing my grandmother's face as the grandmother in the story. It sunk in. Compassion is a powerful emotion. The parents in the story weren't bad people, they just needed a little spark or reminder. For me, this book was the spark. Julian suggests that we take the time to meditate or think each day about what good we can do for others. I've already started doing this, and as cheesy as it sounds, its changing my life.