On Saturday I completed the 29-Day Giving Challenge that I posted about last month. The process felt like peeling an onion. First I gave away money, then stuff, then advice, and then my giving became more intangible.
I came to realize that, at least for me, the most difficult thing to give away sometimes is compassion for individuals I encounter in every day life. It isn't difficult for me to care and want to help a cause, or an individual entrepreneur on Kiva, or a reader who emails me for advice. What is challenging for me is to be understanding with the friend who is always down and complaining, the client who stalls my work by not replying to emails, or the customer service representative who reads from a script of answers in response to my complaint. I lose my patience, and sometimes I get angry.Thing is, you can sign petitions, make donations, organize rallies, and spread the word about do-good things all you want, but if you're not being kind to the people around you, are you really a changemaker? . . .
In his 1989 Nobel lecture, the Dalai Lama said,
"Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us."
On Day 26 of the Challenge I came across the Get Service video (above) about empathy. It is totally amateur and cheezy, but it made my blubber. I don't want to spoil it for you by describing it, but let's just say that when someone is getting on my nerves, and I remember to think of it, it helps me.
While out to lunch on my Day 29, I got one of those tea bags with a saying on the tag. It said,
"The finest pleasure is kindness to others--Jean de la Bruyère."