Caring is instinctive. A child is lost, we help her find her parents, someone trips, we reflexively reach out to break his fall. A co-worker's car won't start, we offer her a ride home.
It's a natural part of being human. We live, therefore we help. Helping occurs because the obstacles that separate us drop away, and we are in essence caring for ourselves. We help because the homeless person begging for food is us. We help because the person on welfare who is worried about feeding her family is us. We help because the gang member defending his turf is us. We help because the child who is abused and needs a safe haven is also us.
Among the questions I ask people in my seminars are: "How can you use your whole self to be of service in the world?" "How can you use the wisdom you have gained from your life experience to better our planet?" "Who do you feel the most compelled to serve?" Take a moment and consider what it is you truly care about. Is it teen pregnancy? Social justice? The environment? Homelessness? Endangered species? World hunger? Human rights? There's no absence of issues that need your time, energy and dedication. "In a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair," writes poet Louise Bogan, " no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work, a portion of its lost heart."
Some men and women I spoke with felt that what they were able to give wouldn't be enough to make a meaningful contribution. When I heard this, more often than not, it seemed like an excuse to not get involved. For those people who are in doubt, this story's for you.
One day a woman was walking down a deserted beach in Mexico. As she walked along, she saw another person in the distance. When she got closer she noticed that the man was picking something up and hurling it over and over into the ocean.
As she approached him, she noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed ashore. One at a time he was throwing them back into the water. The woman was puzzled. She walked up to the man and said, "Good morning. I was wondering what you're doing."
He said that he was throwing the starfish back into the sea. That they had been washed ashore in the low tide. He went on to explain that if he didn't throw them back, they would die.
The woman said, "but there must be thousands all over the beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many."
The man smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish. As he tossed it back into the sea she said, "Made a difference to that one."
When people ask, "What do I have to give?" my response is everything--everything you've learned and experienced, everything you are, which is considerable. No, most of us aren't going to become Mother Theresa, devote our lives to service, and move to Calcutta. But that's not what's being asked of us. What we're being called to do is what we can--to make a contribution, no matter how small.