As with all things, life can get hectic. We don’t always pay attention to the people around us. We may miss the fact that someone is sad. We may not notice a friend is acting distant. And so, how are we to act when we notice a stranger is hurting or needs help?
This weekend, my boys and I went to a pumpkin patch. Hidden among the haystacks was someone’s phone. Easy enough. I’ll just call her number. However, she had a lock combination so I couldn’t open her main screen. Lucky for her, it was an iPhone so I asked Siri to call home. No home number either! Boy, this person was not making it easy to be a good citizen! But I was able to figure out her name, so I asked Siri to call anyone with the same last name. A friendly gentleman who turned out to be her father-in-law living 10 states away answered the phone and was able to get me in contact with a nearby relative.
Sure, I could have just left the phone. Shoot. I could have even sold it and made some cash. But that’s not what being a citizen of the world is about. It’s about helping others even when there isn’t anything in it for you.
I learned this lesson in my 20s. I’ve always been connected with the non-profit sector. I believe in giving back and helping others when I can. But it didn’t become a part of my fiber until my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s. She was living in Indiana (in the same house she had gotten married in) without family nearby. We were all on the East Coast until I made the switch to Chicago. She was able to stay in her house because of an amazing couple who were old friends of my grandmother. When Mr. and Mrs. Anderson realized Grandma needed more help and attention than we could do from afar, they became her extended family.
They met with her several times a week. Visited her at her house. Took her out for dinner. Even helped her get her curtains cleaned. They became an integral part of her daily life. I recall thinking… what do these people want? How can someone truly be so selfless? They were God-fearing folks, but this went beyond what many Christians would do. They really lived the life.
To be upfront, I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in an afterlife. But I do believe that what we do here on earth impacts those after us. I do believe it’s important to leave a positive impression on those we touch. Otherwise, what’s the point?
This couple continued to be an amazing presence not only for my grandmother but for my family and for me. When she passed away from heart disease, I told the Andersons there was no way I could even begin to repay them for the kindness, love and generosity they had showered my grandmother with. And Mrs. Anderson told me that was true. Instead, she said someday I will have the opportunity to do good for another person and pass it on. That was how I could repay her kindness…. by showering someone else with kindness.
Some may say it’s a burden to feel like I’m always needing to repay a debt; however, I don’t approach it that way. I feel blessed by the gift they gave me. They made me understand what it means to be a citizen of the world. Life isn’t just about worrying about oneself. It’s not about getting lunches made. It’s not about giving that extra hug to a friend. It’s about knowing that making one small difference in someone’s life can have everlasting impact. It’s about how the positive energy you throw into the world comes back to you.
When I sent the phone back, I put in a card stating to please not pay me for the shipping cost. Rather, pay it forward. I put my faith in people and that, at the end of the day, most people are good and want to be citizens of the world.
Some days, when I feel rushed, tired and zapped of energy, I wonder why I’m working so hard on the sensory websites without making any money. It really is a full time job that doesn’t pay. But then I remember, if I can help one mother feel better about her child, if I can help one father approach his child with better understanding, if I can make one human being feel less lonely, it is worth it. Being a citizen of the world is recognizing we are all interconnected and this web of kindness and giving is what makes life worth living and the world a worthy place to be.
To read more of my posts touching on Sensory Processing Disorder, please click here.