“When you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” – Confucious
I know I’ve said this many times over, but I am either a distant relative or at the very least, a descendant of Confucius. His work is pure brilliance. At least in my book.
I’m often asked what I get out of my endless quest for helping people. I won’t bother saying I do it for nothing, because that would be a lie. I believe that everything we do has a reason or purpose behind it. What I don’t have is an agenda for doing what I do.
I believe that helping others is my calling, my one true purpose in this life. It doesn’t matter whether I’m engrossed in my work or running an errand, if an opportunity to help arises, I’m unable to turn away. It’s as if an invisible force pulls me directly into the path of someone who needs me, and I can’t continue on my way until I’ve sealed the deal, or, at the very least, attempted to. Many a shopping trip has turned into a random act of kindness, from significant outreach to simply helping someone carry their things or those with difficulty seeing/reading find what they are looking for. Each time these opportunities find me, I always leave smiling and feeling as though my work is done, at least for the moment.
In my work with at-risk youth (i.e., abuse, neglect, emotional and/or behavior problems, etc.), I am invited, on a daily basis, into the lives of many, and with that comes a sense of complete trust. This is a role I’ve had since childhood, always the go-to confidant in my circle of friends. My integrity is my deepest ingrained character trait, one that I value greatly and hold onto with a death grip, never faltering. In fact, it’s a running (no pun intended) joke that, my inability to be dishonest has made life difficult for me on many occasions (think job interview question: where do you see yourself in three years?). Nevertheless, it’s a trait I wouldn’t change for the world. I both enjoy having and absolutely must have a clear conscience. A famous quote states “true character is revealed when no one is watching.” I agree with this statement, but would like to add that, for me, it doesn’t matter if someone else is watching – I am always watching. I’m the one who has to look at my reflection in the mirror every day, and I do so with the pride of knowing I always stay true to who I am. A clear conscience is the softest pillow, one that allows me to sleep in peace.
And then there is my constant need to
force recruit others into the world of running. My enthusiasm for helping others find this beautiful way of life is often times so intense that I can get carried away and overwhelm, especially those who aren’t so willing to take that leap. But I don’t know how not to be such an enthusiast when it comes to running, as life-changing as it is, and I know firsthand what it can do for every ounce of one’s being: mind, heart, body, and soul. I certainly don’t want to be greedy and not share the love for such a wonderful sport. I have taken a step back and amended my approach: I only unleash that enthusiasm on someone when I sense an interest brewing or my input is solicited. Then they get more than they came for and then some. What can I say – I’m thorough. 😉
So what do I get out of helping others?
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river of joy within you.” ~Rumi
Pure joy and satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped someone find their way, having made their journey a little easier. The gift of watching someone accomplish a goal or make a dream a reality. Respect. Smiles. Gratitude. Inspiration. In practicing what I preach, I almost always derive a lesson of my own from those experiences. More often than not, lessons that make me want to break into song, specifically Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.” Loud. 😉
For me, it’s a natural response to gravitate to where the challenges/needs are, and at times, it’s not even in my immediate awareness what I’m doing – it’s pure instinct behind the wheel. I more often than not feel compelled to share what I can and hopefully leave others equipped with knowledge or motivation that will help them in their area of need. I live for inspiring others to find their true happiness, and their way to wherever it is they are going. I truly believe I was born to inspire, and I set out to do this every day. I never take on an “I can’t help them” or “it doesn’t matter, so why bother trying?” attitude. Even if it’s ONE person, one is better than none. I often begin with “I may not be able to fix your problems, but you never have to face them alone.” It goes without saying this also applies to any animal, and I often joke that I will likely die trying to rescue something I’m not supposed to touch or not equipped to handle, but that powerful pull drowns out my voice of reason most of the time. I’ve often wondered if it’s my soul that drives this need to help, or if it’s something even bigger than me, but it doesn’t matter. It’s who I am, and I have no plans of trying to change it. Even when my overly empathetic nature breaks my own heart in the process.
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” ~Henri Nouwen
I believe that no one is left unchanged by any act of kindness or helping. I may never get to see it, but I have complete faith that I have made a difference. Whether big or small, a significant life change, merely remembering my words one day down the road, or simply knowing someone cares and that they are not alone, for me, knowing I have made a difference is the greatest payment of all.
“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” – Marian Wright Edelman