What if Neo took the blue pill? What if he never decided to follow the White Rabbit in the first place? The Matrix would have been a movie about a guy who is discontent and knows there’s something more. But all you’d see is 73 more minutes of a guy sitting in his cubicle, glued to a computer. What if Luke had ignored the partial clip of Princess Leia, chalking it up to a robotic malfunction? What if he declined Obiwan's invitation to join him on his mission to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance, taking over his aunt and uncle's farm instead? We would watch a young brat farm for 84 minutes.
When my children were little it was often difficult to get them to fall asleep. In fact it used to take 1.5-2 hours to get my oldest to fall asleep on any given night. I still remember how frustrating that would feel. I would work a full day and then spend the evening cleaning up after my children, play with them and then get them ready for bed. When it was finally time for them to go to sleep I just wanted them to nod off so I could have a couple hours to do something I liked, something that I was interested in. Now if you’re a parent you can relate to what I’m talking about. But even if you aren’t, I’m sure you can understand. I remember one night we were visiting friends at the beach and as I was holding Della and trying to get her to fall asleep, I came to the realization that I was calm and perfectly content. To be holding her and putting her to sleep was as close to perfection in life that I could recall. I wasn’t ‘just waiting’ for her to fall asleep so I could go do something else. I genuinely felt at home and at peace. It was an amazing feeling. Usually I was trying to get my children out of the way for the evening so I could do something that I would enjoy (read a book, watch a movie, play a video game, surf online, etc.). But I had found perfect peace in that moment of loving Della by showing her physical and emotional love. Some of you may be saying, ‘duh’ Brad, that’s what being a parent is all about. But this was as in the center of God’s will as I had felt since I could remember. I wasn’t making a massive gesture of world change or anything ‘enormous’ like that. I was simply holding my daughter and putting her to sleep.
I’ll be honest. In my life and in my line of work, there is a lot of talk about serving others. And while I know it’s important, up until that point, I really didn’t enjoy it. It was just a necessary part of being a spiritual counselor and leader. But after that realization with my daughter, everything changed. I realized that serving someone else and truly finding perfection in loving someone else was enough.
Most of us volunteer somewhere and give of our time because we know that to be a good thing. But do we know it to be a perfect and beautiful thing? In the moment that we are absolutely adding value to someone else’s life, what could be more perfect? Or we look at the subtle gesture that we have offered and think nothing of it. When in fact even the smallest gesture of service to another human being is of incredible importance.
May you find beauty and perfection in giving of yourself to another person, even in the tiniest of ways.
There was a time in my life that I was so wrapped up in doing what was ‘required’ of me that I was rarely present with people. When I say ‘required’ I mean those things that I knew I needed to do or those ways that I knew I needed to be (or act) so that people around me would be happy with me or satisfied. My nose was pressed so far up against that routine and I was so concerned with satisfying the people in my life that I wasn’t free to actually give the gift of myself to people. It was a paradox really. On a deep level I wanted to add value to people’s lives. But instead of doing that, I would focus on making sure people weren’t unhappy or dissatisfied with me. Either at work, at home, or in the community. It just became my default mode of operation. It was selfish actually. And the result was that when I was always doing just enough for people to not be dissatisfied, I was rarely actually adding value to the lives of those I cared about most.
A large part of it had to do with my fear of change. It used to feel like so much work to me to have to change what I was already comfortable with. I like routine. Routine is consistent. Routine helps me avoid the unknown. The biggest problem I had with change is that it meant that I would have to make hard and difficult decisions and actually give more of myself as opposed to keeping everything ‘status quo’.
Here’s the brick wall we all run into though. Change is inevitable. People change. Organizations change. Governments change. People change their minds, their preferences, their wants, their needs, their perspectives, their ___________. You can try to resist change, but you’ll be left behind. Even more tragic, you will not be adding value to this world.
This world needs you. We need your heart. We need your mind. We need you to be present and to bring yourself to the table. When someone close to you is dealing with a death, illness, loneliness, depression, or anything of the sort, they don’t need your routine. They need you. The essence of you.
They need you to sit with them. They need you to listen. They need to look in someones eyes and feel connected to humanity and even the Divine. If we are so fearful of change and anything out of the routine, not only will we not be able to give the gift of ourselves, we won’t even realize that the walking wounded are all around us.
Adding value to the world by being present means that we give up feeling threatened by change. It means we operate on a whole different level of honesty. It means having difficult conversations with people when we disagree with them or when they’ve let us down. What if doing the right thing wasn’t threatened by the concern of what people thought about us? What if we were empowered to tell people things they don’t want to hear when they need to hear it because we are more concerned about being present with them than what they think of us. It means not trying to get people to like us, but connecting with them and giving them ourselves. It means dropping the games. No spin. No misdirection or misleading. It means we stop trying to paint ourselves in a better light. It means being less about impressing or mitigating and more about connecting. It means being vulnerable even if we get shot down or lose our job, reputation, or pride.
How much better would the world be if we gave of ourselves regardless of the outcome? What kind of world we have to experience for ourselves if we made the choice to be more present and embrace the change?