They say you only live once, but that’s not true. You only die once, but you live every day
I was reading my Course in Miracles lesson this morning and there was a line that struck me:
“Let all appearances seem pure to us now.”
Part of the problem that we have in seeing the ‘purity’ in another Is that look we don’t understand them because they look different, or speak another language, or they’re older or younger than we are. And because we have fixed notions in our minds about who this person is, we don’t even hear what they’re saying. We don’t hear it.
Later this morning I was listening to a segment on NPR called Story Corps. (It’s also available as a podcast.) And this young man, his name was Brunell, I did not get his last name, said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said,
“They say you only live once, but that’s not true. You only die once, but you live every day.”
Each day is a gift
He was pointing out that every day that we are alive is a gift that we should return by doing whatever it is that we can to make the world a better place.
This really made a lot of sense to me and that‘s why I wanted to talk about this. Each day is a gift not only to the people who share it with you, but to yourself. When you do things for other people, you help the whole world become a better place. And you increase your own joy and calm.
Brunnell and his mom were talking about Hurricane Katrina and how it destroyed their town, the 9th Ward in New Orleans. As a result, he was driven to help his community by opening a supermarket. He did that because he knew the people where he lived had to take several buses just to buy food because there was nothing in their community. And over the years he started some other businesses to serve his neighbors.
Ignorance is not bliss
Story Corps is a conversation between two people talking about something that helps us understand human motivation and how we can learn about other people who may not be like us on a surface level. Maybe they’re not in the same situation or the same social status but when we hear their stories, we find out that underneath, we all want to love and be loved.
Listening to these stories teaches me what life is like for others and to have more compassion and more understanding. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance does not help. Ignorance keeps us from loving and appreciating each other.
So the only way we can truly appreciate one another is by listening and talking and sharing with one another. And that’s what Story Corps is all about. They’re just celebrating their 20th anniversary on the air, and I think that’s exciting. You can download the podcast and listen any time. The wonderful stories will just make your heart swell with joy!
Brunnell saw the purity in his neighbors and wanted to help them in a dire situation. If you knew that a family member was suffering or had a terrible problem, wouldn’t you run to help?? Brunnell understood that all his neighbors were part of his extended family. (I like to believe that the whole human race is part of my extended family.)
So, when my morning lesson says let all appearances seem pure to us, let me suggest this: imagine if we could start off with no preconceived notions when we meet someone; no ideas about who we think this person is. And just listen with our ‘spiritual’ ears. We will hear something entirely different than we would have before.
Help others to reduce your stress.
That’s really such an important aspect of this idea of being helpful, because how do you know when you’re being truly helpful? Only when you have compassion for whoever it is that you’re helping and hearing what they need. Let me give you an example. I was chatting with my friend Jo a couple of days ago. She mentioned that her neighbor across the street must move, and she has an older cat that she cannot take with her. She’s heartbroken about it. As Jo is telling me this story, my little wheels are turning and I’m thinking, “I can’t take her because of my Clawdia. She would never put up with another cat in the house.” So I couldn’t do it. But I said I know someone who’s a cat rescuer. Her whole purpose in living is to help cats survive and thrive. So I told her I would connect her to this friend of mine, and maybe she could find a home for the kitty. So that was my way of helping in the moment.
I went over to Jo’s neighbor the next day and met the kitty. She told me about the cat and I shared it with my cat rescuer friend and now we’re going to see what happens. That was a simple way I could be helpful. And you know something? It’s so rewarding to be there for someone right in your neighborhood. Open your door, knock on your neighbor’s door. If you don’t know them, say hello, say “if you ever need anything, hey, I’m just a couple of steps away.” Some people live in their house or apartment for years and years and they don’t even know their next-door neighbor!
I’m a walker. I walk down the streets (which is great exercise, by the way) and I meet the neighbors who are mowing the lawn or they’re getting into their car or they’re taking mail out of the mailbox or they’re walking their dogs.
And I start a conversation about the weather or some such, and from then on, I have a friend to at least smile at. And sometimes I even make a new friend. It’s just a wonderful thing. I know that if I needed something, I could call on these people and they’d be there in a heartbeat just as I would for them. It’s a comforting feeling to know you live in a neighborhood where people care about you and you care about them, right?
So that is my message today. Never let an opportunity go by to be helpful or at least friendly. There are so many ways, of course. I saw this article about food banks and how employees who work in companies in the area volunteer at these food banks. They package up food and take it to places like Long Island Cares where people who need the food can come and get their packages.
There are so many ways you can help in your neighborhood and know that you are making a difference. It fills you up. And you will be floating on a cloud after you do just the slightest, simplest thing. I also gave the neighbor with the cat the phone number of someone who does estate sales and maybe she can help her sell the things that she’s not taking with her. I mean just simple little things, that take hardly any time (I know we’re all so busy!) will be a blessing to both of you as giver and receiver.
Helping is a ‘win-win’ situation
Give it a try because everybody wins under these circumstances. You win because you’ve done something wonderful. It makes you feel good. And the person that you’ve helped has benefited. So they win. It’s a win-win situation.
Another benefit of being helpful—it releases stress. Yes! I’m always talking about stress but forgot to mention it yet.
So absolutely, one of the best ways to remove stress from your life is to be helpful to other people. Why does it remove your stress? Because you’re thinking about them. You’re not thinking about yourself and your problems. It’s about what I can do for that person. And then you’re using your creative juices—it helps you mentally, too. The benefits are incredible.
So your stress level goes way down because there’s no stress when you’re helping another person. And in that stress-free zone, all appearances seem pure.
Please remember, everything begins with a thought. So notice your thoughts so that you can get rid of the ones that are causing you distress.
Peace and Love Always,