by Liz Jansen
About the time I got my first bicycle, I got my first paid job — picking strawberries on our farm. I could keep what I earned but I had to buy my clothes. Early on, I learned how to work, budget, and be self-sufficient. I embraced my cultural and family’s values of independence and hard work, within a social structure. It offered such freedom!
Needing help at age sixty for routine activities I’d taken for granted all my life was a shock. It also opened my eyes to how simple gestures of kindness can turn someone’s day around. I’d trained as a nurse and thought I knew how to care for others. Being on the receiving end taught me empathy at a new level.
These actions made a difference to me, and I’m mindful about using them every day.
- Extend a smile, a kind word, or a gentle touch. Never underestimate its power. You don’t know what led someone to a situation or action. The distance between a prestigious job, beautiful house, new car, and homelessness can be two pay cheques. Listen to The Healing Power of Jam.
- Respect others and your surroundings. How we treat other people, animals, and nature, is how we treat ourselves.
- Have fun. Laugh. Laughter stimulates your whole body. It reduces stress, boosts immunity, and increases the endorphins released by your brain. Sharing it with someone makes it even better.
- Open your unique gifts. They’re made to share. Focus on what you’re here to do rather than trying to make a difference. Set aside what you or others think you should be doing. What is it that makes your spirit soar? If we all do that, the world changes.
- Be curious. Ask questions. Show genuine interest in another person and their circumstances. Break the routine of daily life by taking an alternate way home, stopping at a shop you’ve never entered, or trying different food.
- Listen, with all your senses. Cultural and social conditioning makes us vulnerable to judging others without understanding them. Seven months after my crash, I broke my ankle while walking. My shoulder wasn’t strong enough to support me on crutches so I ended up in a wheelchair. You disappear when you’re in a wheelchair. At one point as I sat there getting advice from a health care practitioner who addressed only the friend who was pushing me, I felt like screaming. “Don’t assume he’s my husband! Talk to ME! Ask ME about my living arrangements, not the person who’s pushing the wheelchair I’m in.”
- Spend time in nature. A walk in a hardwood forest is my most powerful healer, greater even than a long motorcycle ride. It keeps me in the present moment. It builds confidence. The seasons remind me of the nature’s cycles. It reminds me who I am and that I share this earth. If you can’t get to the woods, go to a park, or a tree in your yard. Look at the sky, the moon, and stars and imagine what’s out there, and who else in the world is looking at the same thing you are! Read: How Walking Changes the Brain.
Making a difference in our world begins with me. Start doing these things and you’ll change the world. If I’m true to who I am and what I’m here to do, the rest looks after itself. It doesn’t mean I won’t go off on a detour, but life has a way of reminding us we’re off course. Learning the lesson and getting back on our road is part of life.
Related post: Open Your Gifts and Make A Difference
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