The capacity to devote yourself to the welfare of others yields otherwise unobtainable power and potential for good. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote is about one of the most powerful forces on the planet, the human capacity for love. Isn’t that a good definition for why people will put effort into the welfare of others? The quote talks about the results of this effort, this devotion of self towards the welfare of others.
It says that in doing so, you can gain power unobtainable by other means. There are those who help others for altruistic reasons (potential for good), and others who do it for their own gain. The gangsters of Chicago were notorious for running food kitchens and hospitals for the people in their territory, as it was an easy way to obtain their loyalty. In that manner, they didn’t have to worry about people telling the police or their rivals.
Why is altruism important?
Let’s start with the definition of altruism. At theFreeDicitionary.com, it is defined as “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others.” As mentioned in the prior section of this post, Al Capone wasn’t being altruistic when he paid for the injuries sustained by innocent bystanders after a failed mob hit. He was buying their silence.
Those who are truly altruistic aren’t in it for personal gain. Usually they are people who have achieved a level of success or certainty in their life, and now look to help others reach that point, or otherwise better their lives. Whether it’s building houses, helping provide or serve food, helping them learn basic life skills, or just being there as moral support, the focus of the action is the helping of others, not the helping of self.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Take a moment and think about the following question. Where in your life do you feel most fulfilled, most complete or most secure? Can you feel the contentment of that aspect of your life? Take a moment and allow that feeling to swell within you. How does that feel? For me, it felt pretty good.
What if you could help someone else feel that way? The lump in your throat was the feeling of altruism unrealized. At least that’s what happened to me. The question becomes how to get the lump out of your throat and out into the real world, helping others. Can you think of a way to share your feeling? Can you teach someone how to get to the same place you are, to feel the same feelings you have in that part of your life?
That is the point of this quote, at least in my mind. Find something you can do to help others. If you are financially secure, can you help others, either by teaching them or through donations? If you find contentment through reading, can you help others to learn to read, read to those who cannot, or help get books to those who can’t get to a library?
In short, I advocate doing what you know. If you are worried that you don’t know enough, feel free to provide what services you can through an existing organization. I’m no home builder, but I can wield a hammer fairly well, so I helped out with Habitat For Humanity. I don’t know medicine, but I donate blood. Doing what you can to help others is a fantastic feeling, and that’s part of what keeps me going back and doing it again and again.
At the start, I asked where in your life you felt best. Grab some paper and write some of those ideas down. Now think of the things you are good at, regardless of how fulfilled they might make you feel. Hopefully you have a bit of a list going at this point. If not, take a moment and try to add a few more to the list.
Look through the list and write down ways you think you might be able to use your talents or contentment to help others. I gave examples of books, building, and blood donations in the earlier paragraphs. What is the most appropriate things for you to do, given your list and your preferences?
Now look at the list and see if one of the items jumps out at you. For some reason, blood donation has always been high on my list, despite an intense dislike of needles. Select one or two that really mean something to you and write them down on a new page. Brainstorm ideas about where you think you could put your abilities to work helping others. Which charities or organizations do that sort of thing? Write them down, and see if you can think of another.
Now all you need is a plan! When are you going to start? How many hours per week or per month are you going to commit to the program? What materials will you need to bring, or will they be provided? Who is your point of contact for scheduling and assignments? Call up the place (or places) you had listed and get some answers, then commit to be there for someone else.
Perhaps you would rather do your helping one on one. That’s great too. If so, you probably already have someone in mind. You probably already have a plan in mind as well. All that is left is for you to get busy, so grab your stuff (whatever it may be) and get going!
We can each be a force for good, one person at a time, or in groups. But it requires us to do something. What are you willing to do?
From: Twitter, @DalaiLama
confirmed at : it’s his own feed…
Photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development