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An Accidental Altruistic Act (and some accidental alliteration, as well …)

Posted in: Blog by admin on June 2, 2011

So many of us have been complaining that we are so busy this time of year — it’s the end of the school year, time to start packing the kids up for camp, time for graduations and parties and preparing kids for college and time to kickstart summer and get our bodies outside and active.  All the while, we’re balancing that with our jobs as housewives or as employees or as bosses.  Bottom line: We all have a lot going on.  And, we’re trained (or have convinced ourselves) to do it all masterfully, full of energy and with a big smile.  There IS  a lot to do, or we have created a lot for ourselves to do, and many of us rarely find time within the day to even sit down.

When I exhaustedly tell my kids, “I haven’t even sat down today,” my daughter Emily responds, “Well, didn’t you ever go to the bathroom today? See, you sat down!”  There are just those days, where we feel as if we have forgotten to breathe.  We’re running and running, and, oftentimes, we’re productively racing through our days.  We’re keeping our fridges full of healthy items (to offset the pantries full of not-so-healthy items); we’re buying our kids clothes and new gym shoes; we’re racing to our yoga classes; we’re helping out at school parties; we’re planning birthday parties and Bat Mitzvahs; we’re taking time for haircuts and wrinkle-defying treatments; we’re scheduling tennis lessons in between our Pilates classes.

We’re running to stay organized, to take care of our children, to feel great and to look even better.  But, where are we really ending up at the end of the day?  Sure, we are accomplishing all that we set out to do, and we’re looking good doing it.  But, is that what it’s about?  Racing around to take care of our own little worlds?  Looking young and fit?  Ensuring that our daughters are dressed nicely?

I arrived, ironically, at my dermatologist appointment the other day, and stumbled upon an elderly woman in the lobby standing there lost and confused.  She told me she was blind and couldn’t find her dentist’s office, which she thought was on the second floor.  Of course, the elevator wasn’t working.  I spent five minutes with this woman, helping her get up the stairs to the correct office.  Once she was safely at her destination, she gave me an appreciative thank-you and we said good-bye.  This was a non-event.  I didn’t do much of anything.  But, what surprised me was how purely good I felt by doing one simple, easy, non-selfish act.  It enlightened me as I sat in the waiting room for my appointment:  I realized that it’s so rare that I do anything for anyone outside of my family and friends.  Sure, I’ve spent years dedicating time to grandparents and friends in need, and I’m confident that I’m a “good person.”  But, then again, that’s so easy to do — it’s almost an innate reaction to take care of those we love … and it’s even easier to take care of those who love us in return.

The true act of giving really exists when you help a stranger or someone who is outside of your core group.  It actually is quite sad that it took an accidental act of kindness for me to realize how LITTLE I do throughout my days here.  I’m so happy that I stumbled upon that woman, because she motivated me to change.  She awakened me.  She made me realize that the world is so much bigger than that in which I safely live.  With three small, dependent children, it’s challenging to make the time to volunteer regularly.  I’ve always said I’ll do that later in life.  But, how often do we numbly fall into that abyss of plans that were never seen through?  My mom always told me she wants to one day volunteer at a hospital to hold newborns who have no parents to nurture, love and simply hold them.  Great idea.  Beautiful thought.  Altruistic plan.  But, a plan is just that — it’s not action.  My friends talk of their desires to foster children, to adopt a child, to volunteer when their kids get older.  I have many similar desires, plans and intentions.  Until then … Or not!  How about now?  How about we all just do whatever little bit we can do today?  We don’t have to take in a foster child this week, but maybe we can go to Am Shalom on a Sunday morning and help make sandwiches for the homeless.  It can be a minor task.  A small gesture.  Yet it can feel so big.

I’m so happy that my egocentric world had the spotlight unintentionally shined upon it, for now I am reminded that there is so much more.  There is so much more I can be doing, so much more I can strive to be, so many more lives I can affect in a positive way … with just a simple, quiet, near-effortless act.  It doesn’t take much time or effort.  It simply takes being awake and aware and reminded of the fact that outside of our daily worlds, there is an entire Universe of people and animals and organizations and shelters and diseases and loneliness and sadness … waiting for us to stumble upon them with all of our beautiful, strong, open, willing, loving arms.

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4 Responses to “An Accidental Altruistic Act (and some accidental alliteration, as well …)”

  1. Sue love says:

    Love love this one!! One of my new favs!!

  2. Tracie K says:

    Always thought provoking and intuitive! Keep writing Amy!

  3. Jenny says:

    Beautiful, wonderful thoughts. I think you can read to those who are vision impaired in nursing homes. Not sure who to contact, but that may be something you’d like to do:)

  4. Deni says:

    I love it, and I love Jenny’s idea (more on that in a private email!)

    Great – love it and love you!

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