The husband and I had a heated discussion after watching a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And although the almost argument was due to miscommunication and misunderstanding (as most of our arguments are), it left me feeling like I was an uncompassionate person who was not doing enough for the world. After ruminating on it some more, I realized that I felt like the life I was choosing to live was not ‘compassionate enough’ with Mother Teresa* being held as the standard of compassion. And the way that this has shown up in my life is my lack of a desire to volunteer.
And although, technically, I volunteer with Odyssey of the Mind (which is a pretty neat organization, btw) it is mostly because it is fun to do and, as my husband likes to point out, it was in very fine print on our marriage license that I’d have to volunteer every year with him as he had already been volunteering for years. 😉 Also, I guess you could say I ‘volunteer’ to be a costumed rollerblader (when I’m not pregnant) alongside my friend Sarah Gish‘s Phoenix Rising art car for the Houston Art Car Parade. And it is because that is incredibly fun to do as well and supports my friend and art!
Besides that, I don’t volunteer with any other organization. And that’s because I feel that almost all volunteer organizations are putting band-aids on problems and not addressing the real issues. We can give food to the poor and hungry, but that need will always be there until we change how our society functions and cares for one another. We can plant trees alongside our highways, but there will always be a need to plant more trees until our society changes how we view ourselves and our world. We can mentor young children who come from broken homes, but there will always be children in need of mentoring until we change how we love and relate to one another. And these are just issues here at home.
We can help establish running water in and send food to foreign countries, but there will always be that need as long as our country’s policies are greedily and stupidly made instead of realizing that everyone on this planet is interconnected and what we do to help or hurt another, we are doing to ourselves.
And I know that I’m the type of person who likes to find and then address the root of the problem instead of putting band-aid after band-aid on it. And, as I see it, these volunteer needs that we have stem from a lack of compassion and acceptance in our world. And the only way for people to have true compassion and acceptance for another, is to have compassion and acceptance for themselves. Once a person comes to a place of self-compassion and self-acceptance, where they accept all of who they are and recognize that they are enough just as they are – that they are no less or no more than anyone else and that they are deserving of love and happiness just as everyone else is – then they are able to love and accept others from the overflow in their own lives and act truly compassionately towards others.
And this is how I came to accept the fact that I don’t volunteer as much as people say we ‘should.’ What I do is follow my heart – and my heart tells me to continue on this journey of loving and accepting myself and sharing my heart with the world so that others might learn to do the same as well. And through this, we will all be healed.
This is my path. And I recognize that this is not the path for everyone. The world needed Mother Teresa. And the world needs volunteers and volunteer organizations because it might be a long time before we are all more compassionate and there are people suffering in the meantime. But the world also needs me to be who I came here to be and so that’s what I’m going to unabashedly and unapologetically do, volunteer or not. Because my way of ‘giving back’ and contributing to society, whether it be through caring for friends and family or making art and music, is no less valuable or valid than a volunteers. And if it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself to be unapologetically who I am, it’s because I am a little. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t and at those times, I need to strongly remind myself that what the world really needs more than anything is for me to be happy and follow my heart.
*[UPDATE 7/28/16: Soooo Mother Teresa might not have been all she was cracked up to be. Read here for more.]
“If you have frustrations with life and ‘how things are,’choose to express them in positive ways that help others change their belief systems, so that the conditions you deplore eventually disappear.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
“Humans keep trying to eliminate the condition of poverty, the condition of hunger, the condition of misery, the condition of oppression, the condition of prejudice and lack of equal opportunity, the condition of violence, the condition of war…they keep trying to make these conditions go away. […] And they cannot, because these conditions are reflections of beliefs that have not changed. If you want your world to change you have to work to change the world’s beliefs.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
“The first step in moving to a place of love for everyone […] is to move to a place of love for yourself. You cannot give to another what you cannot give to yourself.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
“Have fun. Spread joy. Share love. This is the Three-Way Path.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
“Fun, joy, and love is who you are. It is the natural you. Just give in to that[…] Share love with everyone, in the form that your soul tells you is most appropriate to the moment and to the kind of relationship you have with each person – and with yourself.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggles to be different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
“We are to do what there is a deep psychological and emotional imperative for us to do. That’s our point of power, the source of our brilliance. Our power is not rationally or willfully called forth. It’s a divine dispensation, an act of grace.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
“If you’re talented at music, that talent is of God*. If something makes your heart sing, that’s God’s* way of telling you it’s a contribution God* wants you to make. Sharing our gifts is what makes us happy. We’re most powerful and God’s* power is most apparent on the earth, when we’re happy.” –Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
*I personally don’t identify with the divine nomenclature of “God.” And you may not either so feel free to put Goddess, Divine, Love, Great Spirit, your soul, All That Is, or whatever else in the place of “God” in the above quote. The meaning is still the same and the truth of it is still valid.