Did you notice her? The old lady crossing the street with her collection of shopping bags or were you in too much of a hurry to get to the other side? Did you see him? The old man, smelling of wintergreen and struggling to read the information on the pill box? Did you notice the boy in the threadbare shorts, his feet bare despite the winter cold? Did you notice the middle aged woman sitting by herself in the restaurant, avoiding eye contact with the happy couples and boisterous families? Did you see the pain behind the cashier's brusque answer, the frown that hides the worry on the face of your fellow elevator-traveler, and did you see the mother who counted her cents and then reluctantly put back the six eggs, settling for the half a loaf of bread? Or were you too busy pretending not to see?
The experts tell us that we are currently living in the most prosperous and privileged time ever, yet we are surrounded by people in need all around us, every day. No, I am not just talking about financial need, I am also talking about physical and emotional need. We are all so busy with life on our own island, coping with our own stressful situations and trying to make it to the top of our own little hill that we have no time or energy for the need of others. We are afraid of what it will demand of us when we start to really notice those around us. What will it cost us to get involved? On top of that there is also the question : will I be safe if I dare get involved? So, instead of reaching out we snuggle deeper into our cocoon of oblivion.
Reaching out to others can be scary and it requires of us to move out of our safe comfort zone. However, there are so many benefits that it makes all of our initial discomfort worth it. Studies have proven that there are very real benefits when we help others. When we help other people we become happier and healthier individuals. It boosts our self-esteem and confidence. When we become involved with a good cause or when we volunteer our time we gain a sense of purpose. It can help to give us a sense of belonging and unity. Helping others improves our own mood and fill us with renewed hope and vision for the future. It can help us to live our lives with a sense of gratitude. We gain a feeling of peace. When we set an example of helping others it sets off ripples in the community and soon more people start to reach out to others in need.
There is no excuse for not getting involved in some way. We are surrounded by ample opportunities. You could become a volunteer at your local community center, you could read to the elderly, assist with their shopping and the local SPCA is sure to need more volunteers. You can become a mentor at your local church or youth facility or start a city clean-up group. Does it feel like too much pressure to get involved with a specific group? Then maybe random acts of kindness is the way forward for you. Become the person at work that is always happy to spread some cheer or make the staff some tea. Bake a cake for the old age home or help somebody cross the street.
We are always looking to the government or the world administrations to make the world a better place. It is never going to happen, the need is simply too great. However, every one of us can make a difference to our little corner of the world. Mahatma Gandhi said that we must each one be the change we wish to see in the world. It is up to us.