Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 9, 2005
Practice the art of living, the art of life
Light One Candle
Maybe it's because I've been doing a lot of travelling lately. Maybe it's living in New York City and seeing how people of so many different backgrounds get along.
Or, maybe, it's simply that heading up The Christophers, I get to hear wonderful accounts of the generous spirit folks show day after day.
One way or another, I find myself growing more and more appreciative of the efforts of men and women to do good for those around them.
I'm sure that you know exactly the people I'm talking about: the family member who does some of your chores because you're having a rough day; the neighbour who offers to pick up groceries for you when she is on the way to the store; the stranger who goes out of his way to direct you when you're lost in a strange neighbourhood.
When you consider how frustrating, difficult, even painful life can be, the number of people who go out of their way for others might seem amazing. Not everybody or every time, of course; still, many do manage to go the extra mile.
Some people seem to have a keen sensitivity to both the needs and the feelings of others. And that perception combined with a thoughtful attitude is what transforms good intentions into genuine kindness.
Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, said "Putting yourself in another person's place means imagining that person's point of view, not just thinking of what you with your ideas would do in the other person's situation."
What I really think she's talking about is the Golden Rule at its best. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." What we truly want done to us is to have someone give us the help we need when we need it - and with the warm empathy and generous spirit that can make all the difference in the world to us, especially when we're in trouble.
Consider those examples I just mentioned. If your family member or your neighbour acted like a martyr, or that stranger was resentful about the assistance he or she gave you, wouldn't their actions lose their lustre? Your appreciation would diminish because the help given was not open-hearted and open-handed, but grudging and self-absorbed.
Are some people just naturally kinder and more loving than others? I believe so. But that doesn't mean that we can't nurture our own efforts to be gracious and compassionate day by day, even hour by hour.
Author and screenwriter Myles Connolly wrote that "Everybody at one time or another has known people, strangers, relatives or friends who have changed the quality of the day for others. . . . The shining quality of goodness radiates from them, from their mere presence.
"All these, humble and unaware, carry with them the kindness and generosity of their lives. These are the greatest artists. They practise the highest of arts - the art of living, the art of life itself."
That's not a bad goal for all of us - to strive to excel in the art of living - not just for our own sake, but for a world full of people who would benefit from all the good we have to give.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail:email@example.com.)
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