Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Helping Others Is Good For Your Soul

On Bettering Lives
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)

Some persons like helping others; I am in their company. Throughout my years, despite my personal circumstances, I have found great personal satisfaction and considered it an achievement to help others. Some call it altruism; some call it giving to charity; some call it friendship; some call it being human. Whether it was helping people pack and move, or helping them paint, or helping them find a job, or giving them a ride somewhere, or giving them money, or listening to their heartaches, the act of giving, of helping, I did so with the knowledge that I was also benefiting from the relationships. And it is a relationship of kindness, since that is one of the greatest ways that humans can choose to relate. Even animals, often of differing species, help each other in what is known as symbiotic relationships [see here, here & here].

Why not humans? The benefits are many. This is not always apparent, and it seems counter-intuitive to some persons, who sense that the receiver gains more than the giver. It's true that the receiver benefits, but so does the giver. In a society where the haves and have-nots are neatly divided—some use this distinction as a political weapon—giving can become more than an act of kindness. It can become a way of viewing the world; it can become a way of life. I am not talking here about wealth redistribution, but about something more basic and human. If you can help someone in any way, why not do it? What stops you? As Schweitzer has said, your action can renew the "spark" in another individual whose "flame" for life, for whatever reason,  has diminished. It can happen to anyone, often unknowingly and unexpectedly for no apparent rational reason.

Sure, one can give of money, which can make a huge difference in an individual's life and well-being; one can also give of time; and one can give of knowledge and truth to enrich the lives of others. Currently, I lack the financial means to help others in a monetary way—hopefully, that will change in the future. Yet, I now look to help persons in non-monetary ways. On a personal and modest level, I hope that my contribution of my writing and knowledge conforms to my desires and intentions. That it encourages and informs and imparts knowledge on the few subjects that I know well. That persons can discover beauty and harmony in their lives that they previously did not consider; that persons can consider new thoughts,  ideas or musical composers or works that were once foreign to them. Such is my gift to you.

Helping others is good for your soul, or as they say in Hebrew, your neshama (נשמה‎).