"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." ~ Winston S. Churchill
When I was left with nothing in the bank -- and nothing in my energy reserves -- during the Big Bad Awful, what hurt most besides worrying for my son, was realizing it had been a privilege to be able to give money, my time, and talents to the groups whose causes mean most to me. It was a joy to be able to help organize functions, or lend my writing and design talents to create ads and articles; and yes, I was thrilled whenever I could write a check to help the organizations who championed those causes.
It hurt when I could no longer do any of that. It was excruciating to have to say "no" to people when they asked for my help again. All were very gracious, and accepted my explanation that "things had changed drastically" for me. I cried each time I hung up the phone after one of those calls.
As I have gotten older, the things I care about most have been honed to a select list. My son is at the top, obviously. But the time in my life when I had to let everything else go was very dark. I always appreciated the fact that I was in any position at all to help -- that part of my life was important to me because it defined part of me, it was who I am. And I had to leave those parts of my life behind.
But I am not there anymore. I am here, and I am present, and I am able to give again. And that remains a privilege for which I am grateful beyond measure.
"There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up." ~ Bernard Meltzer
I am no Mother Teresa by any means -- I've had enough poverty for one life, and I enjoy traveling far too much to give it up all up for charity. But I know I am a better person for giving when and where I can. I retain my connection to the rest of this beautiful, albeit troubled, world. I have empathy for creatures great and small. Some call me a bleeding heart. I'm fine with that. Some say I "feel too much." Ok. It's not them I'm concerned with: I am concerned with how my child sees the world. I want him to have empathy, and receive the same joy and sense of purpose when he helps someone else. I want him to see that it is, indeed, a privilege and a responsibility we all share.
"From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other -- above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received." ~ Albert Einstein
This is the only way we can balance the world we live in. We need empathy. We need tolerance and justice. We need to help each other. We must give of ourselves in order to keep our collective soul intact.