I've been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is to get wrapped up in the busyness and chaos of life and to, by default, become a little bit selfish. A lot of us don't do it on purpose, but when life gets crazy, it's almost an automatic thing to watch out for yourself and forget about those around you. It's so easy to forget that, while you may have a million things going on in your life, so does everyone else.
Unfortunately, so many of us get so "busy" that we don't make time to do some good. To serve others. To watch out for someone else. To be Good for Something besides ourselves..
Today, I was reading in the fourth chapter of a book by Gordon B. Hinckley called Standing for Something (very good book, I highly recommend it). Near the very end of the chapter, he writes something that impressed me...
Now if that quote doesn't make you want to go out and change the world, I don't know what will!
**I tell this story, not to inflate myself in the eyes of others, but to share a personal experience - because that is what I know.
A couple weeks ago, I didn't have to go into work until noon (very rare occasion for me) so I decided to go pick up lunch for a friend and bring it to him at work. The Asian restaurant I chose didn't open until eleven and I got there a bit early, so I stood outside for a bit waiting for them to open the doors. As I was standing out on the sidewalk in the plaza, I noticed a very rough looking man leaning against the wall a few stores down, propped up on crutches. I observed that whenever anyone walked by him, he would approach them and it was obvious by the head-shaking reaction he got from each person that he was asking them for something. I didn't think much of it. There are a lot of those kinds of people around where I live.
I glanced over in his general direction a couple times, and got a little nervous when he made eye contact with me. I knew what was next so I quickly looked away. The next time I looked up, there he was - the same rough-looking man - an arm's length away from me. He wreaked of alcohol. I have to admit I was a little bit afraid, but being in a fairly busy public place on a sunny afternoon, I wasn't too worried. Once he was so close to me, I also noticed he had only one leg.
He slurred a few words to me that I had a hard time understanding, then he asked me if I had any money. I told him the truth, "I'm sorry, I don't carry cash on me", and looked away as if to blow him off. All I could think in my head was, 'this man is obviously highly intoxicated - he does NOT need my money to go buy more booze'... And I immediately began justifying myself for so coldly - and so easily - denying this man.
I watched him hobble away on his crutches and approach several more people along the sidewalk. Each person either shook their head at him or blatantly ignored him. Guilt swept over me as I watched him struggle from person to person. They were all clearly much better off than he, myself included. When he had no avail with any of the people along the sidewalk, he meandered into the parking lot - targeting anyone who had just pulled in. He went from car to car, asking people probably the exact same thing he asked me. As I continued to watch him, my heart began to be sad for this one-legged man who was clearly in desperate need of help - any help. I began to be disappointed with myself. Why hadn't I helped him? Sure, I didn't have any cash on me, but there had to be something I could do. Watching everyone say no to him, and seeing how bad that made everyone who rejected him look, I though of myself, and how bad my rejecting him might have made me look - not in the eyes of others, but in the eyes of my Heavenly Father. Especially when I knew how perfectly able I was to help this man.
My thoughts suddenly changed from, 'Why should I help him?' to, 'How can I not help him? I mean, even if I don't have a ton of money, I have more than this man who has nothing. I have enough to share. Here I am buying lunch for myself and a friend of mine. All this man needs is some lunch, and I rejected him.' I felt terrible about myself. And suddenly, I found myself walking across the parking lot in his direction. As I got closer, he turned to look at me with a slightly confused expression. "Beef or chicken?" I asked him. He looked lost, so I continued, "I'm buying you lunch." He replied that either would be great, and we both walked back toward the restaurant just as the doors were opening.
He waited by the entrance while I ordered three teriyaki chicken meals. I put two of them in a bag for my friend and I and handed him his on my way out the door. He thanked me and "God bless"ed me several times. I smiled and told him to have a nice day and left. As I was leaving the plaza, two women who had apparently witnessed the whole thing approached me and thanked me for what I had done. I smiled because it felt good to be thanked so much. But more than being thanked by the one-legged man and the two women outside made me feel good was the feeling I got knowing that I had done a selfless act without any expectation of recompense. I just knew that it was the right thing to do. I had done my Good Deed of the Day.
Gordon B. Hinckley also says in his book, "One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served."
How true that is. Maybe, when we serve others, we don't necessarily benefit in the same way - But we benefit in a way that cannot be bought or borrowed. We get to feel the joy of knowing that we helped a fellow human being. We get to feel the joy of knowing that our actions pleased our Heavenly Father. And that is a joy that can only come from a selfless act of service.
As a society, we have so much potential to do good for others, to bring joy to the lives of those around us, and to make someone smile - if only one person.
I would offer this invitation to everyone to make a sincere and valiant effort every single day to forget yourself and help someone - even just the smallest act of service can have a significant result. And I promise you that if you do, you will feel happier and you will have a stronger love toward the people around you.
I like to call it my "Good Deed of the Day" goal. Let's be Good for Something.
What will be your Good Deed of the Day?