It’s Not About You: How Helping Others Changes Everything
It was the day before my first live event. I had a group of people coming to spend 2 days with me. I had promised creative inspiration, education and productivity.
To say I was a little nervous is an understatement.
I was running some last minute errands, and my phone rang. It was Kendra.*
Kendra is a woman I had sponsored over the holidays last year, getting gifts for her and her three children so they could have some presents under their Christmas tree. But why was she calling me in May?
Kendra sounded desperate. I could sense her shame, but it was over powered by her determination. She wouldn’t have any further income or assistance for two weeks, and she didn’t know how she was going to feed her family. She has no car and no way to get anywhere for help.
My initial reaction was to push her away. I was too busy, and this wasn’t part of the deal.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Plus, I was already at a store where I could pick up some food.
I grabbed my phone and called her back, saying that I would drop off some groceries in the morning.
The next day, I woke up extra early, loaded up the groceries next to all of my supplies for the retreat, and drove to her house.
When she opened the door, I found myself wrapped in her arms, and she just thanked me over and over. My eyes welled up as I hugged her back.
As I headed to my retreat, I was basking in the feeling of having made a difference for someone rather than being wrapped up in my own worries and fears.
And that is the whole point.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own “stuff.” Whether it’s your own big, scary projects or your crazy To Do list.
In this situation, I’ve heard other suggest that you get outside of your own head and think about the people you are meant to help.
Keep a basket of cards, notes, or e-mails from people you’ve worked with. Think about others who would benefit from working with you, and let that motivate you to keep moving forward.
These are great ideas.
But sometimes those you are supposed to help aren’t necessarily who you think they are. Sometimes they are simply those who are immediately around you.
It doesn’t really matter who it is. Just helping another person instantly changes your perspective about what is going on in your own life.
Often, when I find myself fully absorbed in my own situation, my own troubles, my own story, someone shows up to change my perspective.
Yes, one way that I do that is through my business and my work. But I can also do it in other ways.
That’s how I ended up dropping off groceries to a woman on the morning of my first live event so she and her three children could eat for the next two weeks.
Or how I walked 3 blocks with a pregnant woman during a conference I was helping to organize, giving her my smoothie and some bus money (the only cash I had) so she wouldn’t have to walk the 7 miles back home.
Or even when I was interrupted by an e-mail earlier this week from an acquaintance looking for support for her KIVA loan while struggling with my own work alone in my house.
It’s so easy to let these opportunities slip by. To stay focused on ourselves and make excuses about being too busy or not being in a position to help everyone else.
But I believe that these things come to us for a reason.
The truth is that the benefit to your life and your emotional state, not to mention the difference you make for the other person, is much greater than the time or effort it takes.
And if you open your eyes to them and take a chance to help another person, you just might return to your own work and life with renewed joy, appreciation, and inspiration.
Have you had a powerful experience helping others? What was the most recent opportunity that came your way, and did you act on it? Do you think I’m nuts for doing these things? Leave a comment below.
*Name has been changed.