I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of contribution and how much it does to foster goodwill, and what an enormous gift it is to our own personal happiness. It was Gretta Brooker Palmer who said, "Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy." Mark Twain remarked that, "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." And of course there is the famous biblical adage that admonishes us to, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." And yet, in a world focused on how much we can get, it is not the first item that tops our list of 25 things to do to get ahead. Ironically, it's the one thing that brings the most joy, satisfaction and happiness.
Many of us today live under such a heavy financial burden that the last thing on our minds is giving. Survival and fear seem to be more the order of the day. Yet because our economic calamity has been brought upon us, in a very large part by greed, the very antidote that is called for is a spirit of giving - financially, emotionally, spiritually.
We have to remember, lest we perceive ourselves as victims of any circumstance, that everything we have done, thought and acted upon has contributed to the world as it is today. Our physicists and scientists from Einstein to Hawking, Newton to Braden have all contributed to the continued revelation of a subatomic culture that responds and literally rearranges itself according to our thoughts. They are learning more and more about how we interconnect with a field of energy, a superhighway or underpinning of our universe. Some scientists have called it the Mind of God and the Divine Matrix, by whatever name you call it, I think we can all agree that it is a creative framework for creation. It becomes easier to see how we are all connected; how every thought, word and deed of each individual contributes to our world - good and bad. All our thoughts of selfishness and greed have contributed to an unstable economy. While it's easy to look at the economy and point to one thing or another as obvious blame, we all have to take responsibility for how we contribute to the pot. Once we take responsibility and understand how we are creating circumstances, we are then powerful where we stand to affect change.
This is where giving, service, contribution and generosity play such an important role. There are so many stories of people helping one another in this economy that even our "serious" media outlets - if it bleeds it leads - are featuring good news stories. They are heartwarming, inspiring and encouraging. Nothing feels better than making a difference in someone's life. Oprah Winfrey herself claims that nothing has made her happier than her philanthropic outreach, especially her school for girls in Africa. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, risks life and limb in Afghanistan and Pakistan to forge his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls. He has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs simply because of his generous acts of kindness. He has done more for detente in that region than the billions of dollars we spend on war.
Nothing feels better than contributing positively to another person's life. If it is true that we live in a vibrational, responsive universe then every loving thought, kind word, smile and attempt to make someone laugh is an investment. No good act is ever wasted. It contributes to our momentary happiness and to the whole web of creation. It stands to reason that if bad feelings contribute to greed and war, good feelings contribute to peace, harmony and happiness. My mother used to tell me it was better to give than to receive, which was an awfully bitter pill at 6 years old to swallow. Now that I'm a tad older, I know that it is impossible to do one without inciting the other. As a teacher of mine used to say, "You can't out-give God." I believe the ripple effect of generosity and kindness has such far reaching effects that it would blow our minds.
This week I would encourage you to practice the balance of giving and receiving in your life - they are two sides of the same coin. As my friend Jacob says, "You can't just exhale." If you find yourself in a bad mood, take the advice of our wise friend Mark Twain and smile at someone, extend a kind word or compliment, make any small gesture of kindness. You will be amazed at how it will instantly change your mood. If you have more financially, give. If you don't, open yourself up to receive and give in other areas that you are abundant in. Check out my Joyous Contribution area on this blog and act on one that inspires you. Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace prize for his contribution to eradicate poverty and the inception of micro finance. And it all started with a kind act - he gave a woman a quarter one day to help her start a business. There is enormous potential in each generous act that we initiate. Let's open our hearts, extend our hands and unleash our power. We face an unparalleled moment of possibility.
This week I leave you with an inspiring video - a story of contribution. I also leave you with a quote by Arthur Ashe who said, “From what we get in life we make a living, from what we give we make a life.”
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