The Joy of Helping Others

When you reach out to help others, gratification and fulfillment follow.

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Posted in , Dec 5, 2016

The joy of helping others

“The capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.” –Pablo Casals, cellist

Have you ever thought about when caring begins to mean something to us? When do we start to understand that being able to care brings a sense of gratification and fulfillment to us, not to mention what our caring does for others? Developmentally, it is not until early adulthood that we are equipped to fully empathize, and that might be a generous statement. We learn to empathize through shared experiences with others, allowing us to move beyond sympathy, or having concern for the suffering of others, to feeling their pain, sorrow, hardship and hurt ourselves.

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But what about simple caring—acts, outreaches, gestures—that we offer to others? This begins at a very early age. Picture a baby in a high chair reaching out to you, offering one of his precious Cheerios? Or a second grader who reaches out her hand to help a friend up from the carpet after story-time? Or an adolescent who comes to an adult because he is concerned about the negative choices his friend is making? Caring has its own significance in every one of these acts, even though the baby is not aware of what caring means.

I saw an Apple commercial last week that struck me. Perhaps you have seen it too. A version of Frankenstein decides to come down from his isolated mountaintop home to the village below to be amongst the people during the Christmas season. He brings with him a recording of a Christmas song (recorded on his iPhone, of course) and two Christmas light bulbs, one red and one green. He screws the bulbs into the two bolts in his neck and they light up.

He begins singing along with his recorded carol as a crowd gathers around him, in intent observation. To his dismay, the green bulb goes out. A little girl breaks from the crowd and motions for him to come to her. He leans down and she tightens the bulb and the bulb lights again. She then begins to sing with him and the rest of the crowd joins in. The message of this ad is: “Open your heart to everyone this holiday season.”

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We all matter. We all have value. We all have the ability to care for others. And we all have this ability every day of the year. Yet, in the spirit of the gift God gives us at Christmastime, we see and hear many more messages of caring and giving during the December holidays.

I will do my best to recognize my capacity to care this Christmastime. I will keep my eyes open to opportunities to offer caring in old, new and creative ways. I invite you to join me in being that subtle voice that helps others in need, all the while keeping in mind Pablo Casals’s message that “the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance,” every day of the year. 

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