The sage knows that his possessions are none, therefore he gives to the world; without recognition, doing his work.
Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 77
Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! James 2:17 (CEV)
Many of us are in need of healing after being rent apart by family obligations and professional commitments. We are imposed upon to the point of physical exhaustion and emotional disintegration. We need time to be solely devoted to our own well-being, to nourish and revitalize ourselves. This comes by taking time out to minister to our bodies and interior life and by putting ourselves first.
That being said, though, we must be careful that we don’t swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. We run the risk of becoming selfish and self-centered. We become a universe of One, thinking only of our own needs and no one else. This can be profoundly detrimental to our well-being. There cannot be wholeness of being if we are out of balance in this way.
So I propose that there is healing in the act of stepping outside our personal universe and looking to others in need. There is wholeness in taking right action. We find a need or a cause outside ourselves and attend to it.
This doesn’t mean that we jump right into spending all our free time at the soup kitchen or immediately becoming the campaign manager of a local politician. But we can, little by little, do small things for the greater good. At the very least, we can become informed on issues of importance.
Here’s something each of us can try. Think of an area of great concern to us all and google it. Sift through the hits and learn as much as you can about the issue. Then, share what you learned with someone else.
For example, one global issue that burdens my heart is the vile practice of human trafficking. I know a bit about this issue because I have associates who are working to stop it. In order for me to be more supportive of their endeavors, I need to be better informed. Here are some sites I found on my web search that I want to share with you.
We can also do more than be informed about an issue. We might actually take some small steps that contribute to the common good. For example, some friends and I had a discussion a few nights ago about how we might contribute to the fight on global poverty by purchasing more fair trade goods. It is well and good to be informed and discuss adopting this practice. The next step is to do it. I am beginning simply by looking for the Fair Trade designation on food products. I am now searching for retailers that sell affordable fair trade clothing. I found some online resources that I will investigate further in coming days:
Am I going to solve these great and terrible problems on my own? No, of course not. But I can step outside myself just a little bit and connect with others who are working towards the same goal. Do I run the risk of being a “latte-sipping liberal” who is trying to make myself feel better and not get my hands dirty in the process? Possibly, if I am not mindful and don’t heed the words of Lao Tzu, “…she gives to the world; without recognition.” I must remember to do this for others first, and not simply for myself.
Though simplistic, it is nonetheless true that by my taking these small steps towards healing myself, I contribute in a small way to the healing of the world. If I don’t exercise my calling, I am, as James writes, alone and spiritually compromised.
And this benefits no one.
Lori G. © 2007
Addendum: On the side bar under under “Resource Links” there is a section called “For the Greater Good” where you will find more links to sites on fair trade, human trafficking, and sustainability.