Recently, my husband and I have twice had our meals paid for by secret benefactors as we have dined out.
In addition, I have twice been on the receiving end of generosity in fast food drive-thru service, where the person in the car ahead of me paid for my bill.
In a world where everything is built on some kind of “exchange,” – as in, “you do this for me, and I will do that for you,” – it is a breath of fresh air to benefit from the completely unearned kindness of a random stranger.
It is more than a breath of fresh air.
It is beautiful.
In my mind, these two separate concepts – beauty and generosity – are deeply intertwined.
And, at the risk of being overly simplistic, they are the exact things needed to save humanity from careening off the cliff it seems hell-bent on heading for.
As I age, my life goals are becoming more concise.
I recognize time is racing by, and I am not guaranteed this afternoon or tomorrow or next week.
So, rather than setting my eyes on some vague accomplishment in the future, I am focusing on living each moment immersed in beauty.
For me, this means recognizing my being exists within Beauty, and beauty can be found everywhere I go.
By doing so, I can experience wholeness and satisfaction wherever I am in the moment.
If you venture outdoors, beauty is easy to find.
It is in the colorful flowers, the singing birds, the starry skies, the recent rain showers, the green grass ...
Many times, though, beauty is hidden. We might have to look a little deeper or from a different angle to see it beneath its otherwise rough exterior.
When a natural disaster destroys a city, the resulting shock and chaos appears to be anything but beautiful, as houses and businesses are ripped to shreds, and people’s lives are broken apart at their foundations.
But, as someone who worked as a reporter at The Times Newspaper in the aftermath of several major natural disasters in La Salle County, I saw more than misery going on in the days and weeks that followed.
I saw people – individuals and groups – helping people.
I saw these people helping pick up debris; cutting down fallen tree limbs; cooking food; serving food; handing out blankets, helping others fill out forms, simply hugging the distraught and reassuring them, at least in that moment, that things would be okay.
The photo staff at the newspaper captured many of these scenes, providing evidence of the prism of light humanity is capable of when selflessly reaching out to one another.
A dear friend of mine is on a mission to promote “random acts of kindness.” This phrase has been around for a long time, and to some, it can sound like a cliché. I like the idea of calling it something along the lines of “living beautifully.”
Whatever we call it when we do something for another with no expectation of anything in return – even a “thank you” – it has the potential to quietly revolutionize the world in which we live.
Read that last paragraph again.
How BEAUTIFUL it would be if, instead of proverbially ranting in the streets that “the sky is falling,” more of us would make it our goal in life to perform at least one unselfish, unearned act or gesture for another each day ...
And none of this even has to cost a dime.
Smile at someone whose path you cross. Send someone a notecard via snail mail, “just because.” Tell someone how pretty that blouse looks on them. Give someone walking into the store the cart you just finished with. Tell the server at the restaurant you are eating at how much you appreciate their hard work.
Get creative. The possibilities truly are endless.
Being beautiful is my life’s ultimate aspiration ... in fact, I wonder if the question I hear when I die won’t be so much “how well did you follow the rules,” as it will be “how much beauty did you sow while you were there?”
This week, I am giving the last word to a man whose brilliant voice continues to echo through time and space, despite having died in 2008. These are words I return to often in my own life, to remind me of the principles of economics in the soul realm.
“If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.” – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.
SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada Novak at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.