Therapist, teacher, counselor and all around amazing woman Jodi Aman, writes a thought-provoking, spirit stirring blog today called, “Can you be too generous? I don’t think so.”
Jodi writes about one of the many simple tools to living a better life that Choices teacher — Giving is receiving. More than that though, giving can also be healing, writes Jodi. She demonstrates its healing powers through a story she tells about a day when, in great distress, she saw a tiny turtle lying on the ground, a piece of gravel in its eye, its body dehydrated. The act of picking it up, giving it water, taking care of it until it could be released to the river, completely shifted her thinking from her own pain to the turtle’s distress and what she could do to help it — and in that moment, she was healed.
Jodi writes, You can give and be a victim of it, and you can give and not be a victim of it.
It is all in our attitude. Our choices. Our willingness to let go of pain to move into the promise of hope and healing.
What if, giving is healing?
What if, when I give I am feeding my heart, and my mind, what it most needs?
Several years ago, when I was in the first days and weeks of awakening from a relationship that had been killing me, I chose to get actively engaged in my healing by giving back. Every Tuesday morning I would ride my bicycle to a church some miles away and join with a group of people who made sandwiches for the lost souls who lived on the streets of East Vancouver, a notoriously drug-riddled area of the city where junkies and prostitutes and dealers jostled for attention.
Making those sandwiches was just such an act as Jodi describes in her article.
In buttering the bread, layering it with meat and cheese, my thinking shifted from my own woes to thoughts of the people who would be biting into the sandwiches I was making. I imagined that when they bit into each sandwich, they would feel the one thing they couldn’t see that I was consciously layering between each bread slice — the one thing I needed most in those first fragile days of my recovery, self-love. (My TEDx talk from a couple of years ago, Lessons in Love, describes the power of that act.)
In the conversation around me, in connecting into community, I was lifted out of my own pain to a community of giving and receiving. In the stories we shared, the laughter, the prayers, I felt connected, supported, part of something greater than myself. I wasn’t different than the people I was making sandwiches with. I wasn’t ‘other’ than the people for whom we were making sandwiches. We were all one. All connected.
In giving back I received the gift of healing.
It was powerful.
So often, our minds become trapped in the darkness of our pain, churning around and around the same thoughts of what is wrong as if continually thinking about them will pulverize them into sand. Instead of minimizing our pain though, our continual thinking about it reminds us of all that went wrong, all that is not right, and in those reminders we feel hopeless, exhausted and defeated. And in our exhaustion, we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do, nothing we can change, nowhere else to go that will be any different.
It’s not true.
There is always something we can change. Our attitude. Our position. Our perspective can all change when we give back, no matter how broken, defeated or exhausted we are, giving back feeds the soul.
I saw this constantly at the homeless shelter where I used to work. People who had nothing, choosing to give to others. When asked why they volunteered, the response was always the same, ‘it makes me feel good’; ‘it takes my mind off my troubles’, ‘because I can’. It was those who chose to volunteer clearing tables, washing dishes, sweeping floors who had the greatest sense of grace in the chaotic world of a homeless shelter.
Giving back is healing.
Give back to yourself today and take a few moments to read Jodi’s article. It’s great soul food.