A Journey of Giving:
The common American mentality is to live a life that is destination happy. We are constantly looking to get through the next barrier in order to reach that elusive destination where happiness will prevail in our lives. We assume that there is a special point where our troubles will fade away and joy can rise above.
- When I meet that special person…
- When I get promoted…
- When I retire…
This mentality is only natural because it gives us a sense of hope to get through the struggles of our current situations. If we have a milestone to look forward to in the future then the present is bearable. At some point those milestones end and you have lived a life that is…bearable.
“Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The biggest delusion of all of these is the idea of becoming rich. This was the mentality that I had taken on. I was dedicated and driven to be the next great entrepreneur through the building of a multimillion dollar corporation (overly ambitious dream). I was not naive enough to think that wealth frees you from your problems. However, I did assume that reaching this destination would leave me satisfied in some way.
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I was not consciously aware of this at the time, but I thought that if I achieved this goal, I would have overcome my greatest insecurity: that I am enough. I think the common fear among people is that they need to prove they are enough to those around them. This could be through their job, spouse, car, clothes, or any variety of masks.
“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” – William Shakespeare
I liked to convince myself that I was above this because my plan was to have numerous philanthropic projects(destination) after reaching my dream. I clearly wasn’t above anything. I was destination minded.
“It is better to travel well then to arrive” – Buddha
As I had been reading the works of truly great minds, they had been showing me the flaws in my philosophy all along. However, words never seem to have the impact that experiences do. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to the favelas (slums) of Sao Paulo, Brazil to work with a local ministry. While I was there I worked with children who grow up with prostitution and drugs as part of their daily lives. Drug dealers control these areas and the police wont enter them. The ministry is only able to work with the children here because a powerful member of the drug community found God while in prison for murder. He helped the ministry negotiate an agreement with the drug dealers.
While we were working with these kids we had the opportunity to visit their homes and meet their families. The living conditions were terrible with shacks for homes, stolen electricity, and sewage running down the street. However, many of the people were very happy. They were extremely hospitable and were willing to share their stories and talk about their lives. They had gone through hardships that I couldn’t imagine and came out with a smile. They have never experienced the luxuries of an American life but had far more joy than the majority of Americans I know. Why can one group of people be able to find happiness in struggle while another group struggles to find contentment with so much?
This question stuck with me during both trips that I took to Sao Paulo. After reflecting on my second trip, I came to the conclusion of giving. In an area like the favelas of Sao Paulo, the people are forced to help each other to get by. They may have very little but they are always willing to give to those around them.
As Americans are growing up, we are usually exposed to the Golden Rule at some point. But this idea is lost amongst a culture of instant gratification, consumerism, and narcissism. “Whats in it for me?” To do good for another doesn’t hold up when the results come later, if they come at all. This is sadly a shortsighted mindset that few of us are broken of because we are never exposed to the alternative.
When I look back on the happiest and most satisfying days of my life, they have been spent focusing on others. However, there have been far too few of those days. I feel that I am similar to most people in that when I think of giving to others, I usually think in financial terms. Giving should be a mentality that you carry into all your interactions.
- Giving a smile to a stranger
- Giving your job your complete dedication and best effort
- Giving your loved ones the extra attention that they deserve
- Giving yourself the joy that comes from a selfless life
Destinations do not bring you happiness, they only create distractions from your journey. The goal is not to be destination happy, but journey happy. The key to being happy with your journey, is to live a life of giving.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Jesus Christ
“Our prime purpose of this life is to help others.” – Dalai Lama
“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” – Buddha
- Kyle Morrow