I met up with a friend whose 17-year-old daughter is struggling. I hadn’t seen C.C. for a while, and since the purpose of getting together was to talk about her difficulties, not mine, I gave her the elevator-pitch version of my life in recent months.
“Oh my goodness! Why are you even here talking to me?” she gasped.
I grinned impishly. “Uh… Busman’s holiday?”
Seriously, I don’t want life to be all about me and my problems.
One redeeming quality of my struggles is that I can apply whatever nuggets of wisdom I learn to make someone else’s life easier.
I can help others in new ways: I can be a better friend, a better listener. I can ask better questions, and I can empathize first before jumping into problem-solving mode. This gives me something constructive to do with my pain.
I find that the world becomes very small if it’s all about me. My likes and dislikes become more pertinent, my preferences rise to dictator status. We all need a life bigger than the circle of our pleasures and woes, a world where we can contribute kindness as well as receive it.
This goes beyond needing to be needed, because we genuinely *are* needed. Someone out there needs your ear, needs your hug. Someone out there needs a half hour of your attention, or maybe two or three half-hours. I daresay they need it regardless of whether you’re happy or sad, and they certainly need you more than you need to watch a TV show or play a mindless game on your phone. You’re likely to feel better after helping, too. Or at least that’s how it goes for me.
C.C. and I talked for a long while, and at the end of our occasionally tearful, occasionally laughing conversation, we hugged. She thanked me for taking the time to meet up with her. I said, “It’s a real pleasure to see you. Always.”
For sometimes the reason it’s better to give than receive is that when we give of ourselves we receive a certain kind of gift we can’t get any other way.