The most important thing is to have a sense of responsibility, commitment, and concern for each of our fellow human beings. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This saying seems to be about the duty of each human being towards the rest of humanity. This duty has three aspects, and he implies we should have towards all others a sense of :
- responsibility, to be trustworthy and reliable towards them.
- commitment, to be emotionally or intellectually involved in their lives.
- concern, to be interested and involved in their lives.
When we can put these together, we can truly become a powerful force, helping to move all of humanity forward, towards understanding and harmony. Violate all these, and we risk sliding backwards into distrust and hatred.
Why is duty to our fellow human beings important?
At thefreedictionary.com, duty is defined as “An act or a course of action that is required of one by position, social custom, law, or religion.” While the Dalai Lama is a religious figure, he often speaks from a humanist standpoint. I believe that it is a wise and proper course of action, available to all people, regardless of their religious views.
This duty is to help one another. This duty is to assist each other become the best that we are able to become. This duty isn’t just to our family, nor just for our friends. It is a duty that applies to every human being on the planet. I know, it’s much easier said than done, but one must endeavor to assist all the people, even the ones you don’t like.
This duty doesn’t allow exceptions for smelly people or people who speak a different language. It doesn’t allow exceptions for people who look different or who rub us the wrong way. It applies to all of us, all the time. It’s a tall order, but a very noble aspiration (a hope or ambition).
Where can I apply this in my life?
Duty, it’s a very strong word. But how does one approach such an obligation? We should try to be trustworthy and reliable, emotionally or intellectually involved and have an interest in the lives of others. Easy enough to do with friends and family, but how do you ramp it up to take in the whole world?
I can’t think of a way. Unless you are someone with a world-wide stage, it probably isn’t going to happen that way. All you can do is work locally and stretch out the best that you can from there. Mother Teresa had some good advice for us in the pursuit of this duty, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Similarly, if you can’t commit to helping a hundred people, start with just one. Can you be a mentor, a teacher, a helper? There are many elderly who just need some human contact, who spend their days alone, either at home or in a care facility. Could you be reliable and commit to be there for an hour a week, be involved and interested in their life?
Can you help (through an existing program or on your own) adults increase their level of literacy, or to help at-risk school children find a productive (or at least safe and legal) outlet for their energy? Can you be there for other people, people you don’t even know, when there is a fire or other emergency?
These are all things we can do to help others in our immediate area. From time to time, there are emergencies that take the global stage and require food, clothing or cash. There are also ongoing missions to assist people in other countries. All of these things can help us reach out to those far away as well as those close to us.
I can’t tell you what to do, or even how to do it. Even the decision to do it at all is a private and personal one. I just hope that you will see what great help you can provide, even if it’s just for one person. I also hope you will feel the calling and answer it, and savor the wonderful feeling that comes from helping others.