March: Compassionate Service
In calendars preceding our current one, the new year began in March, because that was when winter’s starkness gave way to tiny buds, emerging green leaves, and opening flowers. Nature mirrors back to us new possibilities and the exaltation of life. Spring is the season of hope and the irresistible impulse to grow and create.
We have the ultimate opportunity in spring to restore and embody our natural goodness and to become better people. This is a good time to think about the areas of your life where you want to become a better person in order to help others in more impactful ways.
But what gets in the way of our being of service, of helping? Many things.
How much human pain to let in and whose? Shall I become involved or not, and if so, how deeply?
Is this problem too heavy? Do I have what it takes? If I offer to help, will I ever get away?
Denial comes into play almost automatically. We blot out the suffering right before our eyes, walk by people who are obviously in pain without even noticing them.
How deeply our mind has been conditioned to resist unpleasant situations. We have been encouraged to do anything we can to escape from rather than to explore unpleasantness. It’s not just physical pain we try to avoid, but all kinds of conditions: boredom, restlessness, self-doubt, loneliness.
Our hearts are closed down by the fear in our minds - fear of loss of control, of being overwhelmed, of our own vulnerability.
We may not know how to help or where to start.
Yes, we have a responsibility to alleviate the conditions of human affliction: provide food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, health care for the sick, freedom for the oppressed.
We can also offer a different kind of support ~ simple support or guidance.
A plain word of friendship to cut through the isolation ♡ A gentle neck massage to ease the tension ♡ A tender hug or touch to convey love ♡A meeting of the eyes for a moment.
Moving a friend’s furniture ♡ Teaching a child to read ♡ Comforting a crying child ♡Reassuring a frightened patient ♡ Sitting with a sick friend.
Perhaps there will be nothing we can 𝘥𝘰. We can only 𝘣𝘦, and 𝘣𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 the person in his or her pain, attending to the quality of our own consciousness. Hearts that have known pain meet in mutual recognition and trust. Such a meeting helps immeasurably.
There are so many ways in which we listen to one another. When sitting with a friend going through a hard time, “I hear you” can mean “I understand. I’m with you.” This message can be immensely reassuring for a person who has felt isolated or alone in their pain and suffering.
Service is not a one-way street. Helpers don’t simply go about dispensing service with nothing in return. We all know how much we get back from caring for others.
The struggles of those we are helping confront us with life at its purest. Their suffering strips away guile and leaves what is real and essential. The deepest human qualities come forth: openness, yearning, patience, courage, faith, humor, truth, spirit.
How can I help? We can help through all that we do. We can help through all that we are.
We work on ourselves in order to help others. And we help others as a vehicle for working on ourselves.
There are ways to help that are extraordinary and powerful. And sometimes the circumstances are so ordinary we think nothing of them at all, or only momentarily appreciate the beauty of their everydayness: putting a child to sleep, talking to a neighbor.
There is no reason why we cannot bring this quality to any human exchange. There’s no place special we have to be in order to help out. Right where we are, in whatever we’re already doing, the opportunity to be of service is almost always present. We need only stay conscious and aware, and then give whatever we can to whoever is right there.
Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of time of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural caring impulse within, and follow where it leads us.
Excerpted from “How Can I Help?” by Ram Dass