In my line of work, I come across people who are bored, stressed out, or tired of their status quo. The worry, routine and fixation on pursuing the American Dream just isn’t worth it any more. They’ve come to realize that life is more than comfort, entertainment, the next gadget, the next vacation, the next promotion, or the next deal. Those things certainly aren’t bad— they’re just not as fulfilling for them as they used to be.
If any of this rings true for you, keep reading. If not, stop now. Seriously. This article will make you mad. It’ll make you feel guilty. I'll come across as chastising you. Or worse, as holier than thou.
However, if you're in the camp of seeking something exciting, energizing, and risky… to be a part of something great and noble... to REALLY live... to make a lasting difference, I am going to recommend the counter-intuitive approach of focusing on others and their needs instead of yours. Yeah, I know. Seems backwards, doesn't it?
I had a Triple Whammy hit me this week that has me writing on this topic: On Monday, I watched "Blood Diamond" with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Gut-wrenching.) On Thanksgiving, my family and I cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for ~150 homeless people in downtown Denver. (Heart-breaking.) On Friday, I watched the documentary Human Flow. Www.humanflow.com (Mind blowing). The combination of the three shook me up.
I was reminded of the bumper sticker "If you're not completely appalled, you're not paying attention."
My understanding of human nature is that trying to guilt people into self-sacrificial compassion never works. Preaching about Christ's concern for the poor, sick, hungry, widows, orphans, and imprisoned won’t do it either. The only way I know that works is to expose people to what’s happening in the world beyond our bubbles, ESPN, Wall Street and network TV.
Most people aren’t hard hearted. (Some are, of course. They’re selfish, entitled, angry, greedy, and lazy.) Most are just insulated. Or paralyzed. I encourage you to resist the temptation to do nothing because you can't solve the problem.
Perhaps more important than solving the problem is to simply provide compassion for the people trapped in the problem. Mother Theresa said "We are called to serve, not succeed."
I'm not going to end this with simple ideas for pitching in. I'm not going to end this with shocking statistics about homelessness, the refugee crisis, or human trafficking.
I'm simply going to suggest that if you're in a funk in life and trying to figure out how to come fully alive at last, take the counter-intuitive approach: explore the breadth of what’s going on in the world through movies, documentaries, volunteering and reading. Let your heart break. Find a cause you can’t NOT get involved in. Once that happens, you’ll know it and you'll know what to do next. You'll be amazed at how being selfless can be wonderfully self-serving.
"If you want to really live, die to yourself." Jesus the Christ. (Luke 9:24-25 PARA)