Section 2: INCREASING THE GOODNESS IN OUR LIVES
LITTLE THINGS COUNT
Yes, Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
As I ate lunch by myself recently while catching up on the news via several feeds on my phone, a story popped up about a young, 16-year-old girl in Malaysia who had just committed suicide. As it turns out, she was going through a stressful period in her life, and, as a result, posted a question on social media asking: “Really important, help me choose D/L.” The D/L meant death or life. Surprisingly, over 70% of the girl’s acquaintances replied “D.” Upon seeing the results, the young girl, who was going through a very difficult time, went out and jumped off the roof of a nearby building.
I couldn’t help but wonder why more people didn’t reach out and try to help her instead of responding in the way they did. How much effort would it have taken to send a message of concern or simply ask: What can I do to help you? How much time would it have taken for these so-called “friends” to show that they cared about the young lady and were there to support her in any way they could? No doubt, things would have turned out differently, and this young lady may have been alive today if those individuals had responded in a more helpful way.
The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful
than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
We Have Choices Concerning How We Treat Others
We do have choices about how we treat others. We can choose to be positive and helpful…or we can respond to people in sarcastic, even hurtful ways. We can choose to reach out and help someone we know who has a problem and needs someone to show that they care…or we can just let it go and not worry about them. We can choose to stand up for someone who is being bullied…or we can just ignore the circumstance and walk away. In other words, how we react to the needs of others is a choice you and I make many times every day.
We may think that such choices don’t matter very much. We can even think that, in the grand scheme of things, little
choices like these are no big deal. We may even think a short but sharp text message won’t really hurt the recipient’s feelings. But that’s very poor thinking. Moments like these and the opportunities they present to us are, in fact, what “living life” is all about.
We are not here on earth to see through each other;
we are here to see each other though.
So, Why Are We Here?
In a previous lesson, we offered our personal view of “how the world works.” In explaining our view, we pointed to the fact that each of us is different with unique interests, abilities, and feelings that collectively can lead us to our intended purpose in life. Ultimately, these interests, abilities, and feelings lead us to be doctors, farmers, teachers, pilots, bankers, helpful neighbors, good friends, and much more. In effect, our unique interests and abilities allow us to do special things for each other…to heal, to teach, to feed, to transport, and to help each other in different ways. In other words, our differences allow us to support each other and give us as individuals the opportunity to find and receive the assistance that we need.
If you are nodding some level of agreement to the point that our differences work for the collective good, the next question that seems to pop up is: Where do our unique interests, abilities, and feelings come from? Clearly, some portion of these factors develop from what we learn from other people, from academic programs, or from actual experiences as we live our lives. In other words, they are cultivated and developed within us by the knowledge we gain. But how did the “seeds” of these interests, abilities, and feelings get planted in us in the first place?
This question is the really important one. My personal belief, and the longer I live the stronger this belief has become, is that our interests and abilities are God-given. As such, it’s very logical for me to see and understand that God’s Spirit of Goodness “lives within us” and works in this world through people—individuals like you and me—to heal, to teach, to feed, and to help people in many, many ways. In other words, we are here to carry out God’s work in the world and to help each other have better lives.
That’s all well and good, you say, but why do some people fail to show little or no concern for others? Why do some of
live in very selfish ways? Why do some people even harm others in various ways? This is another important question: why do people act in these detrimental ways?
The answer is this…because of the choices they make. In an earlier lesson, we addressed the relationship between choices and goodness and how our lives are shaped and defined by the choices we make. We can make the choice to work out our life on our own, or we can choose to follow where our interests, abilities, and feelings may lead. We can use our choices to ignore the Spirit of Goodness within our life and live however we want, or we can make the choice to work to identify our God-given purpose and to help others in some special way. Deciding which way you will live your life is unquestionably one of the most important choices you will ever make.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Prayer by Francis of Assisi
Living with Goodness
If we make the choice to work to use our interests, abilities, and feelings—our God-given uniqueness, if you will—to help others, it is, in effect, the beginning of a journey. It’s a choice that frames our life and provides us with a very important objective: to use our life to help others in some special way. It’s a choice that “activates our life” in a positive way and points us in a direction that will, over time, allow us to improve the world in our own special way. We have characterized this as living with goodness.
What does living with goodness really mean? Lots of things, but, in our view, here are several of the more important characteristics of choosing to live our life in this goodness-oriented way:
It means…treating others with respect.
You see, that other person is unique too. They have the opportunity to live with goodness as well. Depending on their choices, they have the opportunity to find their intended purpose and to help others in their own special way. Therefore, we should always have respect for them and the life journey they may be on.
It means…making life better for others.
Whoever and wherever—at home, at school, at work, or within our community—we should continually work to make life better for others…whether our choice has a large impact, only makes a small improvement in someone’s life, or simply shows someone that you care. Every helpful choice counts.
It means…focusing on our interests, abilities, and feelings to determine how we are intended to live our life.
It’s not likely that you will fully understand what these life-definers are saying to you or how they are directing your life on “day one.” Therefore, as we live with goodness, we must continue to work to understand what is intended for our life and how we should live it.
It means…becoming a supporter of an important issue or cause.
Yes, we need to take care of the “home front” first, but, as we live with goodness, we should look for at least one city-wide, country-wide, or worldwide effort that we can become a part of that might make the world a better place for everyone…friends and enemies alike.
It means…having a constant willingness to “be there” when someone with special needs or circumstances appears in our life.
You will encounter times in your life when a person, known or unknown to you, or a group of people “within your reach” will have special needs. Living with goodness means assisting or helping to make things better for them in some way.
Distractions from Living with Goodness
In short, such distractions are collectively referred to as temptations. They are things in life that tempt or motivate us to say things or do things that we shouldn’t. Over the years, we’ve tended to give “the devil” credit for exposing us to such things and leading us off in some bad direction. But in fact, these temptations are everyday things…how we want to dress, the car we want to drive, the phone we want to have, even the text message we want to send. Not that these things don’t have some level of importance in our lives, but when we let them take priority, they can cause us to totally miss the way our life was intended to be lived.
Bottom line, it takes a wise person to make the choice to live with goodness…to see the value of living their life for others instead of simply living it for themselves. It takes a wise person to make the choice to put themselves second and give priority to the well-being of others. It takes a wise person to realize that their unique capabilities are leading them to be of service to others and to the world. It takes a wise person to see that simple goodness is disappearing from the world and that we need more people who will take a stand for goodness and work to motivate others to make the same choice. You can be that person.
Yes, Little Things Count
Whether it’s something you say, something that you text, or something small you do to help someone, such little things count. You never know when a few words, a small gesture, or a positive text will lift someone’s spirit and cause them to feel better about themselves or their circumstances. Living with goodness means…using your choices—and your life—to make other lives a little better.
Humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on earth.
This good isn't usually accomplished in bold actions,
but in singular acts of kindness between people.
It's the little things that count,
because they are more spontaneous and show who you truly are.
I wrap up this lesson by referring back to the 16-year-old young lady who committed suicide as a result of over 70% of her social media “friends” texting the “D” option back to her. Clearly those responders had never made “living with goodness” a priority in their lives and did not view themselves as having an important role in helping others have a better life. To help all of us and to ensure that this young lady did not die in vain, we hold up her circumstances here as a real-life example of why we should all be “living with goodness” every day.
Generally speaking, how do your words and texts impact others?
Again generally speaking, do your words and texts make them feel better or worse?
Have you thought about where your interests, abilities, and feelings are leading you?
If so, are there some ways you might use your life to help others?
What changes do you need to make to live with goodness each day?