It has been some time since I have written anything. This is not due to a lack of inspiration, rather some other things have been on my mind – both newsworthy and not so newsworthy. Certain things are happening that I have strong opinions on – issues that I want to argue over, make my voice heard and point out the fault and misdirection in others. These are the things I want to do when I’m reacting, not thinking. Ultimately, my purpose is not to argue over such matters, especially not here. Instead, I turn to what I know has worked for me: Love, compassion, tolerance, humility, understanding and the ever so powerful tool of leading by example.
For much of my adult life, I was enamored with the idea of making a type of earth-shattering impact. My thoughts would quickly jump from helping someone on the street to saving an entire country from starvation. For an extended period of time, I believed myself capable of causing what I would refer to as real change. I had this belief that it was okay if people wanted to help on a community level but my impact, my desire to help others was so enormous it had the potential to change the world. And throughout all of this grandiose thinking, I didn’t make any difference or help anybody.
I sense that this type of thinking is not as rare as one would hope. When I reflect on that kind of thinking, I notice that the desire to make changes that are newsworthy often eliminates the desire to create change that nobody notices at first. There is a part of me that is driven by ego, fear, and excitement – a part that wants to tell people where they are wrong and blame others for what I see as a disservice. What I have learned is that this type of behavior, this holier-than-thou attitude, reveals what my real motives are. When I argue and yell, I am doing it because I want it to be known that I am right! This behavior magnifies the truth behind my motive – I want to be seen as something special, as someone who is out to make the world a better place. Instead what I have actually done is burn up all my energy trying to impress upon people how passionate I am about some cause to the point where I haven’t made any impact at all, besides hearing myself speak.
What I have learned is that I cannot will people to think like me. Just as importantly, my desire to convince others completely distracts me from making any impact at all. I become obsessed with telling people how they should behave when I am not behaving the way I preach. I have been at fault of this many times throughout my life and, to a lesser extent, still am at fault today. But in many ways I have changed, and I continue to change.
I have learned that the greatest impact I can make on others begins with me living a life that begs me to take the next right action. I have learned that before I can impact others, I must change myself, working to improve myself daily. I try my best to restrain from judging others and when I fail I look at my life and find out what is missing. What am I doing or not doing that is making me lash out in a judgment of others? Often I find that I lack humility – my ego has gotten a little too big and I have to take the steps necessary to come back down to earth so I can see people the way I was meant to see them, eye to eye rather than from above.
When I can carry a message of love and understanding, when I ask to comfort rather than to be comforted, when I place myself behind others I begin to see actual change. What may come as a surprise is that the biggest difference isn’t in the people I am in contact with, the most significant change happens within me. This change enables me to push myself a little further into the presence of others. It allows me to become more involved, more visible. When I practice tolerance I am not being steamrolled over by people who are more aggressive, rather I am learning the ways that I can better reach people. I learn by listening to people, by trying to understand where their heart is at. My voice is not as loud, but it may prove to have a longer lasting echo.
And that is what I want to impress upon others, that echo. I am not at all concerned about being seen by those who only wish to congratulate me, I want to be seen by those that need my help. When I speak to people, I want them to know that I have no interest in anything other than the act of helping one another. The people that I talk to do not need to remember my face, my name or my opinion – my hope is that they remember my love, compassion, and understanding. My hope is that they recognize that actions based on fear and aggression do not lead anyone to the results they wish – That love of power and control is only love of a delusion.
My hope is that when I leave people they feel more connected than when I arrived. I have a desire to show people that I know all about fear and anger, and I know that it doesn’t promote progress and happiness. This is the example that I hope to impress upon others – an example that shows a man who lived in fear, isolation, and misery and turned into a man that lives with peace, passion and understanding. I hope that I can show through my actions that I did not overcome these things by myself and that I overcame them with the love and compassion of others. I can’t remember everyone who has helped me, but I remember exactly how they helped me. I know that they showed love to me when I was incapable of returning it – they showed me compassion when I didn’t think anyone cared – they told me that they understood that I was hurt and that they didn’t want me to worry any longer. Those are the things I remember, and in that way those people have left a part of themselves with me that I will never forget. So forget my name, my face and my story – forget everything you know about me – it doesn’t matter. Instead remember the things that made me believe my life was worth living, that it was other people, faceless people, who through acts of kindness, love, and compassion were able to save my life.
They taught me that to keep this gift I have to give it away, and I do. The people that resonate with me, the ones who have made my life better than I ever imagined it could be, are the people who approached me with compassion. Those that have lashed out in anger and tried to instill fear in me have left a valuable gift for me as well – they have shown me how to diminish the brightness in others, they have taught me how fear manipulates people into doing things they never thought they were capable of. I have lived in both of these worlds – one of them almost killed me and the other shot life back into my eyes.
I have no need for fear in my life, I have no room for anger. Today I have the ability to help others make positive changes in their lives – to look at me in the eye and know that there is a life of happiness out there if you want it. As long as people want to make a positive change I am able to be of service to them, specifically because others were there to be of service for me when I needed. I don’t need to argue to prove my point, I am the proof. I am here because of love and compassion. I am here specifically because of those little things that people do that go unnoticed to everyone but the person they are helping. I am the result of individuals like you who have wished me well, who have written notes letting me know that I am in your thoughts. The compassion that was shown to me and the love that I still receive are the things that have made me who I am today. It brought me back to life – it helped me see how amazing people are when they open their hearts and act not with judgment but instead operate with love. If I have made any impact on anyone it is because of the impact others have made for me – and for me, I only have to look in the mirror to know the power that love and compassion carry with it.