You can’t help someone just by making a wish to do so, you have to take action. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote, to me, is about the difference between thinking about doing something and taking action. Wishing for something to happen is thought without action.
It is action which gets things done. Yes, thinking about something is a good first step, especially when those thoughts are good and helpful ones, but they won’t do much to help someone else.
Your thoughts may help you, but they do not help others. To do that, you need to take action. Action, as you may remember, is what it takes in order to get things done.
You just have to make sure that your wishes and thoughts are proper, and that your actions are aligned with your thoughts and wishes. After all, the quote is about helping, right?
Why is action important?
How many of us have thought good, kind, and helpful thoughts or wishes at some point in our lives. How much did those thoughts and wishes actually help others on their own? Did a kind thought ever feed a hungry person? Did a wish ever relieve the pain of another living in a remote part of the world?
The point is that, while the thoughts and wishes are a great first step, they are not the answer. They won’t deliver the mail. They won’t get the job done. They won’t be of much use to the people in need. You have to, after having the thoughts and wishing for things to change, take action.
This is the point of many of the late-night commercials on TV. Whether it’s starving children in one part of the world, or injured animals in another, they get you thinking, they get you wishing, then they ask you to take action, by giving them your credit card number. Very effective way to do things.
Regardless of the ethics involved, they got you to take action. The question becomes what action do you wish to take? That would depend on what causes are closest to your heart, and whether you have more time, more money, or any specifically useful skill. But you still have to do something, right?
Where can I apply this in my life?
What are your thoughts and wishes? What do you wish you could do to help someone else? What thoughts cross your mind when you think of helping others? I imagine the thought has crossed your mind a few times in your life, the question is what were those thoughts? What were you thinking about doing?
The follow-up question is what did you do about those thoughts and wishes? Did you actually do something about it? That could be a donation of time, effort, skills, or items, as appropriate. Did you do, or did you just think and wish? What happens if all you do is think and wish? What gets done?
Even if you believe your personal effort wouldn’t help much, in reality, it does. No one raindrop thinks it will do much for a dry crop. Together, they bring life to the fields, and then to the people and animals of the region. The aggregation of thousands, or even millions, of small actions can be massive.
Take a moment and consider all the ways you have wanted to help in the past. This could be ongoing desires to help, as well wishes related to specific events in the world. Was there a disaster or other event caused you to wish that you could help? While that event is passed, what would you do if it happened again?
If you think about it now, you can be better prepared the next time some great tragedy or disaster occurs. Consider what you would do differently if it was far away compared to if it were to happen locally. The event could be anything from an industrial accident to an earthquake or a storm. What action would you take to help?
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is send money. While we, as ordinary people, can buy things at a store, a relief agency can buy in bulk and get more stuff for the money spent. There is also the issue of transportation. For thirsty people on another continent, a gallon of water in your hand is less useful than the money needed to rent a tanker truck and fill it, right?
We all want to help, someone, somewhere, sometime. We don’t all have the same values or desires, and we don’t all have the same resources. But we can all do something, sometime, for someone, however small and insignificant it may seem.
Don’t just wish, don’t just think about it, take action. Do something, even if it seems too small to matter. Every little bit helps, and you can make a difference.