In my last blog, I talked about gifts we each have within. There is one gift that I know we can each bring forward and consciously practice giving until it becomes automatic. Giving will help us inspire others as we “be good to my neighbor.” But who is my neighbor? To give a gift may be simple to do, or it could be challenging. You, perhaps, may not realize how many times you have already left a fantastic mark on someone’s life that helped them in their future. Do you wonder how you might have taken action, said a word, or inspired someone to take action, gain faith and hope, and keep going?
Every day we are offered an opportunity to encourage others with a smile or a “Hello” to show them that someone noticed them. We do it or say greetings automatically and do not know how or even if our actions touched them. I know this has happened to me in my lifetime? I have gone through difficulties and then met someone that helped me keep going. Have you? It has happened in my life several times. I specifically remember a little girl that befriended me my first day at a new school, a person at a hospital that helped me keep going when I learned my first husband would die, plus other instances. Neither of us knew anyone at Mayo Clinic or locally. Her name was Dianne. I could go on and on about the people that helped us finish our house when we returned from the hospital. Life surprises us when we open to what is coming to us. Sometimes it might be in a phone call, a visit, or a stranger in the elevator that brings us a message and helps us through hard times. Just watch and listen.
I heard multiple times that “what I would give away would come back to me. So I held onto that belief when I was going through times in my life of “letting go.” I have watched this play out in so many ways. Here is a simple story and an example that inspired John and me in multiple ways.
John stood up in church and shared what happened when we went to lunch in Norman following church one Sunday. We had unexpectedly decided to pick up a person standing in the heat trying to hitchhike. We visited and asked if he was hungry. Yes. We looked at each other and decided to take him to our favorite restaurant for lunch. We told him that he could have whatever he wanted on the menu. A month or so later, we were dressed nicely and decided to drive to that same restaurant following church. We looked like we could pay for our lunch, but what happened next surprised us. When our check arrived after a great lunch plus coffee and dessert, we learned that it had been “taken care of.” After looking around and contemplating who might have paid for our lunch, we decided to leave. We had no idea. Before leaving, we figured out who did it.
We had noticed a young couple within earshot from us looking at us off and on during their meal. The young couple was still there when we got up to leave. As I passed the table where the young couple was sitting, I stopped and said, We had a very unusual happening at our table. May I ask you a question?” The young man replied, “Certainly.” I asked, “Were you the ones that paid for our meal today?” They looked at each other and then slowly shared that it was them. I thanked them and asked, “why?” We all four then got into a great discussion about giving. That discussion was inspiring for all four of us.
This discussion became part of the talk he gave the following Sunday. He told our story about the young couple purchasing our meal, confirming our belief that “what one gives, one receives.” We had paid for someone else’s meal, and then we did not know a young couple paid for ours. We learned that people hearing John’s talk began surprising people they knew or others they had never met by paying for their meals. We kept getting feedback about people going up to the counters here in Pauls Valley only to find out that someone had purchased their lunch or the table’s lunch for the next few months. So John sharing our story is one example of inspiring others by telling a story.
Inspiration for me lately has come from books. Being inside more so that covid remains outside, I read two books. These books have been inspirational and, unexpectedly, have multiple stories within. Both books provide life stories through an interview process, with the author answering questions. I received “The Book of Hope” by Jane Goodall, with Douglas Abrams and Gail Hudson as interviewers. It was given to me as a surprise gift by a cousin through Amazon. No note telling me who sent the book. We did not order it. I guessed right. A telephone call I made confirmed that it was a favorite cousin. When I called to ask if it was him, he said he thought of me as he read this book. Then when he saw one particular line, he knew that he had to get the book for me. (I felt like it was like a puzzle, and I had to read this book to see if I could figure out what the line was.)
The second book was a present from John. I mentioned that I had heard its name three times and wanted it. This book is “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, with Bill Moyer asking questions. I had read some of Joseph Campbell’s writings years ago and got excited about this book that I did not know existed. Now, remember, I just turned 80. Both authors wrote these books while in their 80’s! Their age inspired me to keep on, keeping on. Is it a coincidence I got two books by authors close to my age full of stories about their lives and how their present beliefs came about? Of course, I believe that there is no coincidence, and everything happens for a reason. Both books provide an excellent reading.
One story I found in Jane Goodall’s book is about a boy in Oklahoma. This story is a perfect example of a person making a statement to a boy that created change in his future. Here is the story: Chan Hellman grew up in poverty in rural Oklahoma. His father was a drug dealer and took Chan along with him. By the time Chan was in the seventh grade, his father was gone, and his mother was in and out of the hospital as she suffered from depression and stopped coming home. Chan was eating one meal a day, lunch at school, and was living alone. Feeling desperate, he got out his family/s gun and placed the barrel under his chin. Then he heard his science teacher, who was also his basketball coach’s words telling him, “You are going to be alright, Chan.” He thought about those words and that the man cared about him and believed in him. He put the gun away. Chan is now in his 50’s with a loving wife and family and a successful career. He is a hope researcher focusing on abused and neglected children. Words matter! Our words matter. That same hope in Chan is an example of a survival trait cultivated in all children. Hope can take root even in the worst of the worst situations. We all need to remember that. Jane shares hope and inspiration throughout her book, as does Joseph Campbell.
What else can we do to inspire others? First, take care of yourself so that you can help others. Make a telephone call to someone alone, do the simple things first and then add to this. Invite someone to go for ice cream. I know we feel limited by covid, but make some small goals and larger ones that will touch a life. Smile and feel the difference within. Inspire others to have hope with your smile. Open and share. These ideas are only a beginning, but what you are to do next will come to you.
LESSON: Use encouraging words. Be a good listener. Lift others. Sometimes they will fall, but they will learn as they gain the courage to pull themselves up again. Do not try to control them or change their beliefs to yours. Give and receive. Be aware of what is happening in your life. What you give may not come back immediately but will come back to you when you need it the most.
GIFT: While doing this, you will gain hope for yourself and hope for the world. You will become an “inspiration for others.” You will be happier.