When Is the Last Time You Did Something for a Stranger?

In some situations, helping others is not a question of having fun. It is a question of moral duty, which we have as human beings. There are two ways to look upon this moral duty: must-to-do or want-to-do thing. It may be beneficial to our happiness and personal growth if we embrace the latter attitude.

I don’t have time for myself, so much less for others

New York Times reported on a study done by Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist and four psychologists that finds that women perceive the time with their parents being similar to work. Tasks such as helping with the housekeeping or planning family gatherings with their parents are found to be less pleasant for women. Other studies find that modern women experience a sink in their personal happiness due to the increase of tasks they need to manage. (link to the article in the New York Times)

Some of us find time to go to the gym. Others invest time in finding out how to cook healthy food or where should they go in the next holiday. How about investing a tiny bit of time into cleansing our inner lives? Imagine how our lives would be with hardly any consuming thoughts.

As paradoxical as it may sound, it may help a great deal to get more involved in the community of humankind where we signed up when we were born. Being present for others around us means observing life as it happens. At first, it may be challenging because we are too engaged with our daily problems. Even when we don’t have a problem, our mind creates one.

The great news is that learning how to be aware of the people around us can be turned into a habit, just like any other habit. Starting with baby steps may be a wise decision. For example, we can start by learning to become aware of the people we pass by in the street.

A few days ago, something wonderful happened when I was travelling with my baby by bus. A middle-aged woman stopped right in front of us, gave an energising smile and said, “Hello”, to my baby.

He is usually looking at the other passengers with the curiosity of a child. The others do their best at avoiding eye contact, God knows where their thoughts are taking them. This woman not only noticed my baby’s eyes but greeted him with a spontaneous joy. For a few seconds, we stood there smiling at one another, forming a triangle of sunshine.

What happened after this short connection with a stranger? The numbness I felt was replaced by aliveness. My inner world turned into a space of joy and peace.

Our empathy, warmth and affection need training, just like our muscles

Make a baby smile.

Listen to an elderly person in the street.

Make room for spontaneous meetings with friends.

Keep company to your ageing parent when seeing a doctor.

Actions like these are maintaining the aliveness and spaciousness in us. Yes, it is very important to focus on our lives and to achieve our dreams. Yet, the meaningful and happy life is within our reach when we develop the habit of giving and receiving empathy, human warmth and affection.

There is potential for happiness in each one of us with so much creativity and positive energy. If we take some distance from our everyday problems and focus, for a change, on what happens around us, then we’ll find ways of releasing this potential!

 

  • Kamiel Choi

    Thank you for writing this; I recognize myself here; it inspires me to be more aware of strangers. My particular goal is to overcome cynicism.

    • discoveriesinto

      Glad to hear that this blog post inspires you to be more aware of strangers. There are all sorts of people we interact with daily and I understand very well that it can be a challenge to overcome cynicism.