Mary O’Malley – I was at the grocery store the other day and passed a haggard looking man with bloodshot eyes in the alcohol section with many bottles in his cart. Then, in front of me at the checkout line, was a large woman with a cart filled with high-fat, high sugar, highly processed foods. My heart went out to these two people who seemed to be cut off from the true nourishment of life.
If you step back and look closely, you will see that many people have gotten caught in the seduction of getting. The chant is more, more, more, for the belief is that the more I get, the happier I will be! And it isn’t just around food and alcohol that we can see the seduction of more. Decades ago, the only choice for a drink at a fast food place was small and large.
Now there are drinks so big that they don’t fit into the cup holders in our cars. The choices of cars used to be small, medium and large but now they are super large and there doesn’t seem to be any awareness that these supersize vehicles add to the carbon emissions of our planet.
And finally, I live in a 1914 cottage that used to be a part of a community of old and unique cottages. But most of them have been demolished and replaced by super-size houses, so big that they mostly only have a postage stamp of a yard.
Has all this getting more, more, more brought us happiness? Research shows that the opposite is true. If getting ‘more’ brought us the deep peace and joy we long for, we wouldn’t be such a highly medicated, overweight, depressed and unhealthy society.
It is important that you hear that I’m not saying more, more, more is bad or wrong for it is just what our conditioned minds do. But it is important to see the heartache and despair that comes from trying to get more – a triple decker hamburger, a newer and showier car, a fancier kitchen or a liposuctioned body. After the brief thrill of getting what you wanted, it turns quite quickly into not enough. No matter how much you get, it doesn’t fill the empty hole each one of us is trying to fill with endless getting.
How do we fill this whole? One of the ways is by the opposite of getting…by discovering the joy and healing of giving.
According to research reported in Psychological Science, 96 university students received $5 every day for 5 days and they were required to spend the money on the exact same thing each day. The researchers randomly assigned participants to spend the money either on themselves or on someone else, then the participants reflected on their spending experience and overall happiness at the end of each day.
The data showed a clear pattern: Participants started off with similar levels of self-reported happiness but those who spent money on themselves reported a steady decline in happiness over the 5-day period. But happiness did not seem to fade for those who gave their money to someone else. The joy from giving for the fifth time in a row was just as strong as it was at the start!
What this research is saying is that one of the most satisfying things in life is to give to others. To make the shift from what can I get out of life to how can I be there for others, is life changing. And, as the research showed, giving doesn’t have to be huge things like going to Syria to help the displaced families. Small acts of giving make a difference is your life and in the lives of others. There is no such thing as inconsequential act of giving.
If I am being deeply challenged by life and my mind starts struggling with it all, one of the ways I move through the contraction is by going a park or to a store and seeing how many people I can connect with through a smile. (Children really love this!) I am also moved to give joy to a clerk when I check out. I love leaving with both of us smiling and maybe even laughing. This may seem like such a small thing, but the oceans of the world were initially created out of drops of water. Every ‘drop’ of giving matters for it is a powerful force in the healing of our planet.
I invite you to enter your day through being a presence of giving rather than always being aligned with a mind that just wants more. Or as Jon Bon Jovi said, “To feel good, give good!”
SF Source Mary O’Malley Jan 2020