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We are happiest when we are contributing!


(Written a week or so after Hurricane Sandy hit our area.)

A friend, Nina, sent the link to this video, which she said was a “tirami sú.”

The video my friend sent contains gorgeous images of the natural world and the music and text of “What a Wonderful World.”  I never knew that tirami sù means “pick me up” until her email prompted me to look it up, so thank you Nina for the video and the new word!  My sense of gratitude is so strong this morning that I feel a strong desire to write about it, and thought I would add it to my blog, in case my words are useful to anyone today.

It was very moving, and I am particularly aware of beauty today because i am walking around in a state of wonder.  After a really tough week without power, water and heat, they all came back on this morning, and I was able to take a shower before leaving for work.  The feeling of astonishment and luck — “OMG! I have access to an amazing network of support that allows me to just turn a faucet on and stand under a strong flow of clean, hot water!” — this sense of wonder and gratitude is so strong in me today.  When I think of people throughout space and time, the percentage of people who have been able to do that is miniscule.  I am so lucky!  Even if we just look at today, the percentage of people alive on the planet who have access to this level of resources is very small.

So today in particular my heart goes out not only to the people still struggling with the effects of Sandy, but the people all around the world struggling with the effects of climate change, war, greed, political and social oppression, mental illness, and all kinds of challenges.  Life is very challenging — as the first noble truth in Buddhism reminds us — but we make it so much harder with our fear and closed hearts.  As I heard Louise Hay say, “We have plenty of food to feed the whole planet.  If people are starving, it’s not because of a lack of food, it’s because of a lack of love.”

I want to offer a word of support to anyone who can benefit from it…

 All of us… YOU… have something to offer this world!  

                 It’s unique and precious.

                            What is it that you have to offer?

Here are a few things people are offering.

  • My wonderful friend Katie got on her bike and rode to Red Hook to haul muck out of people’s homes and businesses and help them start recovery.
  • My wonderful friend Virginia got on her bike and rode to Far Rockaway and traipsed up and down terrifying dark stairwells in powerless buildings to carry food to elderly people who can’t leave until the elevator is working again.  (Funny anecdote — Virginia is not the most handy or out-doorsy kind of gal, and she showed up with this tiny little flashlight, which is what she owns and is sufficient for her Brooklyn apt lifestyle, and she said some old guy stuck in his apartment “rightfully” gave her a typical NY hard time — “Call yourself disaster relief with that wimpy-ass little yellow light.”  &:^)

Lots of other wonderful people are around the world every day doing amazing small acts of kindness.  And they are happier for it!  We are wired up to be happiest when we are contributing to the well being of our community.  If you doubt it, just sit at home for a couple of days watching cartoons, or simply feeling sorry for yourself, and then, when you are feeling totally lethargic and hopeless, drag yourself out to go help someone do something totally un-fun that they desperately need, and just watch the internal transformation!  This is what makes us feel alive.

So I offer this question to whoever can use it today:  What can you do to bring your unique gift to the world today?  

  • Can you give someone a can of food or a hand with something?
  • Perhaps you can just smile and can give someone a little lift they weren’t expecting?
  • If you’re already over extended, can you give yourself enough sleep and some self care?
  • If you need help with something, can you ask for it and give someone else the opportunity to feel really good about themselves?
  • Where is a need in your environment, and how can you let it feed your heart to fill it?

May these words be useful, and may we all love ourselves and the world in equal measure.


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