Life can be tough sometimes. And human beings can be cruel, judgemental, harmful, manipulative and selfish. Everyday we must endure being cut off in traffic by people that think their time and life is more important than any one elses. Coworkers throw us under the bus to influence the boss that decides who gets the promotion. Mates lie to each other to hide affairs that fill a selfish lust. Let’s just say it…people can be incredibly selfish. Maybe it is in our DNA to be selfish to survive; survival of the fittest, if you will. After all if you don’t look out for yourself, then who will? People pass over the homeless as if they don’t even exist. Families leave loved ones abandoned in assisted living facilities because they just can’t find time in their busy schedules. Have we become reluctant to helping others due to the fear of violence we read in the news and see on our televisions? Do we assume someone else will volunteer to help? Do we have an obligation to step out of our little world and do for others? YES, YES AND YES!! And I believe that a large part of success, personally and professionally, hinges on how willing you are to help others with zero return on investment.
What has happened to our world? In 50 short years we have gone from never locking doors in Mayberry, to installing home alarm systems capable of protecting Area 51! We are inundated with stories of crime that have changed our perception of the world around us. Internet news, Facebook stories, Twitter feeds, television. The information of crime comes in fast and furious and from all directions. Friends tell us stories of friends robbed at gunpoint. Facebook tells us that mall parking lot robberies are the latest crime “fad.” The nightly news report talks about murders, wars and violence. And what this information tidal wave has done is manipulate our mind into thinking murderers, thieves and serial killers wait on every street corner just looking for their chance to harm us. In response, we shut out the world, only trusting those in the “circle of trust.” We develop a distrust in strangers in order to preserve our own safety. And sometimes there is need to be alarmed, but that does not mean we indiscriminately avoid helping anyone ever.
I routinely passed this guy at I85 and Sugar Creek Rd in Charlotte, NC that held a sign at the top of the interstate exit. I cannot recall what the sign said, but it was the usual “homeless, need work, I’m hungry” sign. I had seen the guy 100 times and usually hoped I didn’t end up stuck at the light with him standing right beside my car. But on this occasion a little voice in my head said “you should give him the change in the cupholder.” My first thought was why? He’s probably going to go buy booze or what if he’s the guy begging up a $1000/week, driving a new car?? But then my little voice said, “that’s none of your concern, just give.” So I did and I felt good for having done so. I had developed a habit of immediately deciding not to help and had allowed my heart to become hardened to others in need. And not just to that one homeless man, but to everyone. All of the negative crime related news had placed fear in me, and I created the habit of not engaging strangers to avoid harm. We learn habits that stand directly in conflict with everything that is being human. I cannot recall one spiritual or religious principle that says “under no circumstance are you to ever help your fellow man/woman!” Do not fall victim to the mentality that the world is so dangerous that it requires isolation for self preservation!! It is time to take a close look at ourselves and ask if we are reaching out to help others or if we live a selfish, self-focused life.
I have talked at length about identifying unproductive habits and replacing them with habits that will aim you at success. I believe this one habit change can singlehandedly change your life. I am not asking anyone to put themselves in harms way by marching into dangerous neighborhoods or saying throw caution to the wind. But, I am saying you need to develop the habit of thinking of others before yourself. I challenge you, as well as myelf, to go sign up to be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Volunteer for a month at a local assisted living facility. Commit 4 hours per week to help clean the kitchen at the homeless shelter. Do something that doesn’t revolve around you. Do something to help put a smile on another human beings face! I make few promises in life, but I promise your reward will be great when you help others. It will build your self-esteem, expand your worldview, increase your compassion and make you more sympathetic. But more importantly, you will help build someone else up! You can be a part of helping someone rebound in life and what could be more important than that?