With Valentine’s Day approaching and thoughts of romantic love in the air, it is a good time to reflect on the meaning of love. Although romantic love for a partner can be for some people the most thrilling and exciting, the deeper level of love that comes from a connection to a higher power and ones fellow man and woman is often the most challenging and the most satisfying. So how does one get to this deeper level of love for all? It often starts with the acts of service that may initially take us out of our comfort zone. One of my favorite quotes from Gautama Buddha is “Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”
We are conditioned by society to see one another as separate; when in fact we are all connected by our humanity. Everyone on Earth gets the experience of being born and dying. That is the human condition. What happens in our own individual lives is often what prevents us from truly connecting with others in a more intimate way. We identify with our own culture’s ideas, and our own religion, political viewpoint, sexual orientation,socio-economic group and other defining factors that make up who we are. Any person who is different from us is seen as somehow incorrect, we are right. But who are we really? Spiritual being’s having a human experience or physical beings just being born and dying while we struggle with the activities and challenges of daily living? The way we choose to see the world and one another can make that difference. Opening up to view one another as equal and practicing the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you is timeless good advice.
Opportunities to serve one another are endless. In the work place are we seeing the people we work with as our friends and allies or are they the competition? Are the customers we help a priority or a pain? Most successful businesses get that way by providing excellent customer service, the customer is first and they want the customer to feel satisfied.
In our personal relationships are we acting from a place of integrity using generosity, caring, respect, thoughtfulness and honesty with others? Do we practice random acts of kindness? Are we accepting of others as they are or do we expect them to change to meet our own needs? Do we want our partner to reach their fullest potential and support them along the way or do we want ourselves to come first and our needs met at all costs? The early stages of a couple’s life are often easier than the later end of life stages where physical attractiveness is lost and health problems are present. The old man pushing his wife’s wheelchair is to me a symbol of the true love that developed over time surviving the romance of their youth.
In my book, Soul Service: A Hospice Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care for the Dying (BalboaPress, 2013) www.soulservice.info I had the opportunity to conduct interviews with twenty-five professionals who in their work with the dying population,were not afraid to break out of the preordained professional roles they been trained to perform and connect with their dying patients in a more meaningful way. The best way to serve anybody, but particularly those at the end of life, is simply to be present with them, to allow them to be who they are. Sometimes this is the highest and best gift you can give someone.
Volunteer work is an excellent way to help others while simultaneously helping our selves. Dave Frew who works in pet therapy started his journey due to his wife Stephanie’s terminal illness. Before his wife died,pet therapy dogs were brought onto her hospital floor. Stephanie insisted that their dog Ranger, be certified for pet therapy. Now Dave and Ranger do their good pet therapy work all over Atlanta, Georgia and videos of “Ranger Frew” can be seen on YouTube. This work also helped Dave through his grief process after his wife died.
Random acts of kindness can be very meaningful. I was recently stuck in my car for over nine hours in a snow and ice storm that hit unprepared Atlanta. If it had not been for five strangers who helped push my car and many others up a big hill I would have had to abandon my car and try to find shelter for the evening. They were my heroes and angels on Earth that night. Others helped people who were stuck in their cars by bringing food and water to them. Those experiences restore our faith in humanity .So let us bekind and gentle with one another as we can make a difference in someone’s life and reap the reciprocal benefits for ourselves along the way.