Fred Leamsnon, Leamnson Capital Advisory, Reston, Va.
News about the government shutdown and the policy dysfunction in Washington, D.C. seems to be taking its toll on our nation’s psyche. We’ve become a bit cranky.
I was struck by a recent post from noted blogger Seth Godin titled “Our Crystal Palace.” He describes how this crankiness often gets expressed.
“We waste our days whining over slight imperfections (the nuts in first class aren’t warm, the subway isn’t cool enough, the vaccine leaves a bump on our arm for two hours) instead of seeing the modern miracles all around us. That last thing that went horribly wrong, that ruined everything, that led to a spat or tears or recriminations — if you put it on a t-shirt and wore it in public, how would it feel? ‘My iPhone died in the middle of the 8th inning because my wife didn’t charge it and I couldn’t take a picture of the home run from our box seats!’”
Reading Seth’s blog gave me reason to pause and to realize that if I’m not careful, I too could get wrapped up in the crisis of the moment and lose track of what’s important — the relationships with the people I care about. I find two things helpful in those times. I do one regularly; the other, not nearly as much as I should.
1. Be Thankful
In spite of the current problems, history tells us we have survived much, much worse than what we’re dealing with now — a civil war, a debilitating economic depression and two world wars come immediately to mind.
Compared with the rest of the world, most of us live in abundance. We have good jobs, comfortable homes, plenty of food, computers andphones that are considered smart. We have cars, often one for each driver in the family. We take vacations every year. We enjoy freedom and opportunity that have people from all over the world lining up to get their piece of the American Dream. We often take this for granted. We shouldn’t.
When I lend a hand to those in need, it puts my problems in proper perspective. I receive far more than I give. I volunteer weekly at Martha’s Table. Every day of the year, Martha’s Table sends volunteers out in two vans (McKenna’s Wagon) to three locations in Washington, D.C. Each van is loaded with hot meals, sandwiches and drinks. We serve meals to 200–300 or so people every day. Many of these folks are sleeping on the streets, under bridges or in shelters every night. Yet, rarely does anyone complain. In fact, we are consistently told how much we are appreciated. Talk about perspective!
If you’re not currently volunteering, I encourage you to think about it. Writing checks to organizations is great, but it keeps us distant from the recipients of our generosity. There are plenty of opportunities. Volunteer at a shelter. Help families winterize their homes. Tutor a student who is struggling. Read children’s books to an elementary class. Volunteer at an after-school program. Don’t know where to start? Do an online search for volunteer opportunities in your town. You likely will find numerous programs listed.
Problems come and go. Crises come and go. But things are rarely as bad as they seem. Slow down. Take inventory of the abundance in your life. Volunteer. And most important, invest in more quality time with the people you care about the most. The return on investment for you and them will be immeasurable.
To read more about generosity, see the article The Generosity Paradox: By Giving We Receive, But By Taking We Lose.
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