For most of us, the most powerful sense of meaning comes from doing something that makes us feel as if we’re making a contribution to the world. Making a contribution connects us to our community and our society as a whole, in a way that makes us feel better when we know that there’s something we’ve done to help someone else, particularly when that person is in need. There’s a reason that charity is an integral part of every world religion and most decent societies help other people because it is very clearly, a vital component of life. There are so many ways to make a difference. Last week I was privileged to witness firsthand individuals who give their time and loving kindness to those who have served our country and have returned wounded. The facility for wounded warriors is staffed by extraordinary people who seem to have limitless energy and copious amounts of compassion. So often we get caught up in our own physical or mental pains that our world become incredibly insular. I have been struggling with joint pain that will necessitate two knee replacements. There are times when I rail against the universe as to “why me”? When I heard the stories of men and women, some of whom have suffered incredible trauma, it gave me new perspective on my own issues. My mother’s favorite quote was “ I cried when I had no shoes, till I saw the man with no feet”. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget how lucky we our since it is quite human to be involved with our own pain. One of the ways to sustain feeling fortunate about what life hands us is to find meaning and purpose. When we attach meaning to whatever we do or whatever fate befalls us, life seems to become more spiritual. Many of us become aggravated at the slightest inconveniences, taking time and energy to try to find whose fault it was or why we are always the one the proverbial bird finds to eliminate on. Perhaps taking a moment to stop your internal patter to think about one thing you appreciate about your life will help you reframe the situation. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Barbara WInter“ When you are on the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly”.
As I watched the protestors in Egypt railing against their government so that they might gain freedom from thirty years of being ruled by a dictator, I felt an overwhelming joy that I was able to witness the courage and bravery that we humans are capable of.
I was especially taken with the young people and the fervor they portrayed. It gave me pause to think about how often society mocks the habits of the young, especially their attachment to cell phones and texting. I have often remarked to my grandchildren that they will soon become one with their phones. However, this amazing foray into a nation’s democracy would not have occurred without the spirit of the young and the social networking that they have so grown accustomed to. It shows unequivocally that technology can be a tremendous blessing and that we must use it as such rather than as a conduit to becoming alienated from one another.
I also felt incredible gratitude as I listened to the participants in the rallies for the many years I have lived in freedom. We, Americans have never been held hostages by a government that disallows our ability to follow our hopes and dreams. Our right to speak out is available and encouraged. Our airwaves are filled with individuals who are allowed to say just about anything. The Egyptian government and others like it do not allow any news that vilifies those in public office. Not a day goes by here without some caustic and crude remark about some politician. We do not sit in fear in our homes waiting for some covert agency to show up and spirit us away to never be seen again. We come and go without restraint, unless we are a criminal or deemed insane, and even then we are not put in a gulag type facility to be left drooling and overmedicated.
I hope that many of you felt a new-found respect for your freedom as I did. I know I take it for granted because I have become accustomed to the privileges it gives me. Perhaps this is the greatest lesson we can learn from Egypt’s journey to freedom, that we must never take living in this country for granted. We are fortunate and because we are, it is our responsibility to make sure we never surrender our freedom to anyone.