Pearl -- Service and Giving
August - September 2000
The act of giving to others is central to practically every major world religion (and minor ones too!). We would like to hear about you* experiences, insights and realizations which have come as a result of serving others. Please send them in to the UC News or to PearlsRus@JUNO.com. We look forward to hearing from you!!
Grant other people something also. The Yamana do not like a person who acts selfishly. Native American Religions. Yamana Eskimo Initiation
Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting. They can be eternal and everlasting because they do not exist for them- selves, And for this reason can exist forever. Therefore the sage places himself in the background, but finds himself in the foreground. He puts himself away, and yet he always remains. Is it not because he has no personal interests? This is the reason why his personal interests are fulfilled. Taoism. Tao Te Ching 7
At the beginning, mankind and the obligation of selfless service were created together. "Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires": this is the promise of the Creator.... Every selfless act, Arjuna, is born from the eternal, infinite Godhead. God is present in every act of service. All life turns on this law, O Arjuna. Whoever violates it, indulging his senses for his own pleasure and ignoring the needs of others, has wasted his life. But those who realize the God within are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfillment, they no longer seek happiness from the external world. They have nothing to gain or lose by any action; neither people nor things can affect their security. What the outstanding person does, others will try to do. The standards such people set will be followed by the whole world. There is nothing in the three worlds for Me to gain, Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have; I continue to act, but I am not driven by any need of my own. If I ever refrained from continuous work, everyone would immediately follow my example. If I stopped working I would be the cause of cosmic chaos, and finally of the destruction of this world and these people. Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to self- less work one attains the supreme goal in life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. It was by such work that Janaka attained perfection; others, too, have followed this path. The ignorant work for their own profit, Arjuna; the wise work for the welfare of the world, without thought to themselves. By abstaining from work you will confuse the ignorant, who are engrossed in their actions. Perform all work carefully, guided by compassion. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 3.10-26
Bhagavad Gita 3.10-26: Vv. 10, 15-26. See Bhagavad Gita 3.4-9, p. 847; 5.10-12, p. 674; Satapatha Brahmana 18.104.22.168-2, pp. 383f. On Gandhi’s interpretation of selfless action as satyagraha, see Bhagavad Gita 2.31-38, p. 887n.
Guardianship is not to give an order but to give one’s self. African Traditional Religions. Nyika Proverb (Kenya and Tanzania)
Jesus said, "You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Christianity. Matthew 20.25-28
The sage does not accumulate for himself. The more he uses for others, the more he has himself. The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own. The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. Taoism. Tao Te Ching 81
If, for my own sake, I cause harm to others, I shall be tormented in hellish realms; But if for the sake of others I cause harm to myself, I shall acquire all that is magnificent. By holding myself in high esteem I shall find myself in unpleasant realms, ugly and stupid; But should this [attitude] be shifted to others I shall acquire honors in a joyful realm. If I employ others for my own purposes I myself shall experience servitude, But if I use myself for the sake of others I shall experience only lordliness. Buddhism. Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life 8.126-128
Matthew 20.25-28: Cf. Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life 5.51-52, p. 791. Tao Te Ching 81: Cf. Tao Te Ching 64, p. 790.
The wise man is the one who understands the universal truth of living for others. Sun Myung Moon 2-6-77
Excepts from "A Needed Man" by Sun Myung Moon 7-16-75 : In any society, the most needed person is the person who is sacrificial and who lives for the sake of other people. History shows that in the past, saints and sacred men have without exception been those who lived for the sake of other people: Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha -- all these people lived their lives for the sake of others. Do you yourselves want to be persons like them? Would God want a person who is just thinking and thinking, without putting anything into action? No. What He wants is a man of action.
Most people do not realize the importance of human responsibility when trying to understand God and the universe. They only try to figure out why God hasn’t done something. However, God and man are in a joint venture on this earth. Without the fulfillment of human responsibility, even God cannot fulfill His plan of creation. All of the suffering in the world is because of the failure of humankind to fulfill its responsibility; this is the source of chaos and confusion in society. -- Sun Myung Moon
There is a story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world. "Dear God," he cried out, "look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in your world. Why don’t you send help?" God responded, "I did send help. I sent you." When we tell our children that story, we must tell them that each one of them was sent to help repair the broken world -- and that it is not the task of an instant or of a year, but of a lifetime. -- Teaching Your Children About God (Henry Holt)
Who knows how long he or she will live? Maybe tomorrow you will die. Do you have some guarantee from God how long you will live? A wise person thinks like this: "I have only a short time to live. Within this time I must prepare myself for eternity. ... Leave behind something that God can praise. Each moment is so precious. ... The person who recognizes that earthly life is short compared to eternity and, therefore, condenses his accomplishments is a wise person indeed. Ask yourself how many people, how many clans, how many tribes, how many nations you have loved. Seek to become that master of love. Live your life like that, and you will never be a loser. (11/27/78) -- Sun Myung Moon
One of the things that has helped me as much as any other is not how long I am going to live but how much I can do while living. -- George Washington Carver
On Serving Others:
Hannah and the Pure Love Alliance Tour
Hi! My name is Hannah Rezsnyak, I am 12 years old and I live in Grand Bay, Al. During July 99, the Pure Love Alliance came to Mobile, AL to do rallies and community service. Many local children participated and worked with them during their stay. I helped prepare food three times a day, there were 200 people all together! A few of us went to my school, Dunbar Middle School ,in Mobile and we cleaned the walls, cleaned all the graffiti from the bathrooms and did a lot of painting. The administration was so pleased with our work. It made a big difference. At the end of their stay, all of us went to Bellingrath Gardens, I felt so much love for all of them. They made me feel like I was really a part of the PLA tour. I was really grateful that the Mobile community could have the PLA visit. -- Hannah Rezsnyak (Grand Bay, AL)
To Every Person, a Unique Way to Serve
by Doris Crompton
One day I came upon a collection of quotes, as I read those on service, I was surprised to find out that all the great people I had admired while growing up had one thing in common: their dedication to service. Where can that service be shared but in the community therefore service and community go hand in hand. What kind of service could one possibly perform on a deserted island? All of us are a part of a community. The challenge is then to discover what kind of talents we have to offer to bring about improvement of some kind being through building something, improving the school system, writing a book, composing music, serving at a homeless shelter...The possibilities are as endless as the human qualities we were born with.
Someone once said that we are all part of a gigantic puzzle, all of us have qualities that are unique and that eventually will complement each other for the fulfillment of the greater good. Some will say: "I have nothing to offer...". Well, all of us have a purpose. Wayne Dyer said it so well: "Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you." In other words, mountains have a purpose, birds have a purpose, dandelions have a purpose...who then can say they have none? If we cannot feel it in our heart, it is time to knock on heaven’s door and ask the One who made us: "Please show me, please use me to make the world a better place."
Jesus promised us clearly that if we ask, we shall receive. Heavenly Father will reveal to us what His divine plan is for our lives and then we too can add our personal contribution thus co-creating our own lives and making this world a better place. Some people’s contribution to their community will be more recognizable than others. Getting ovations and public acknowledgments for our services does not make them more valuable than these services done behind the scenes . The value lies in our investment and this is between us and the Creator. How much we allow Him to use us will be the source of our greatest joy and inspiration. So if you ever come across anyone who does not feel much value in their life, why not ask them in which ways they could contribute their unique talents to the betterment of their community. "What do you mean I have to give in order to receive?" they may ask...Well, precisely, is there another way to receive?
You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. -- Marie Curie
The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule... -- Albert Einstein
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. -- Albert Schweitzer
Joy can be real only if people look on their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. Leo Tolstoi
The Personal Element in Volunteering
by Cathi Close -- Denver, CO
It seems to me that there is often an emphasis on giving anonymously among numerous service organizations. Although, I certainly can understand the purpose for this at times, my own focus in volunteering, especially as a family, is to go out of our way to make a personal connection with the people we are helping. My reason for this is because I believe that service works both ways. It is not simply a giving and a receiving but ideally the "givers" benefit as much as the "getters". If we are receiving help from others, we do not only receive something tangible but also the hope and assurance of knowing that people really do care. Sometimes the gesture, itself, may seem insignificant compared to the scope of difficulties, but the hope which fuels the heart in despair is very, very important.
For the givers, what can be received is the enrichment through the bonds of gratitude, friendship and sharing which break down barriers between strangers. In my own families’ experience, people whom we would have never met or known otherwise became some of our best and closest friends. Also once we had established a friendship we were able to discover many more opportunities to help than our initial token effort. In America, we don’t have starving children begging on street corners or people dying in the streets but there is still so much need. However, that need is often hidden behind closed doors, other times behind defensive pride and even hostility.
It’s not always easy to know what to do, besides to contribute money to some worthy cause or drop off cans of food at a local shelter or Secret Santa gifts. These efforts are valuable but I feel that we also need to make a personal connection with our brothers and sisters in order for our own hearts to grow and for theirs to be liberated. Whether it is extending ourselves to those who are struggling financially, or the elderly or disabled people or children .... it doesn’t matter who, as long as we are sincere in our effort to be unselfish and caring.
One of our yearly Christmas projects is quite simple. We set up and decorate live Christmas trees for families in their homes or apartments. I get names from the local shelter organizations of families who have been recently in the shelter but who are now out on their own. I NEVER just drop off the tree and the boxes of decorations. Instead we bring the whole family along with some cookies and sodas to share while decorating the tree.
Usually my husband and I are the ones who make conversation while our kids are pretty shy and feel self-conscious but that’s OK. It’s a growing experience for them. Over time they will begin to develop a broader perspective on life as a result of these experiences. They gradually begin to appreciate much of what they take for granted which others may not have. It’s so easy to be detached from other people’s struggles or suffering when you are strangers. But once you get to know them, suddenly you realize they are people just like you!
A woman who became one of our dearest friends as a result of this Christmas tree project was raising her niece from Bolivia when we met her. Her young niece had been severely burned and came to America for treatments at the Shriver Burn Center in Boston. As we got to know this woman better, she told us more about her past. She came to this country as a nanny for a diplomat’s family when she was only 14. After the father of this family repeatedly tried to molest her she ran away and began living on the streets. Being totally alone and vulnerable, she hooked up with the wrong crowd, ended up getting pregnant and had her child in a home for teenage mothers in DC. She was foreign and never knew about welfare or any kinds of benefits. As a single mother, she worked, usually two jobs to take care of her child. Once while waiting for a bus on Constitution Ave., after working late, she was brutally raped. At one point she moved to California and again fell in with people who were living the "fast" life and selling drugs. She had another child during this time but when her children were young, the house she lived in with these people was busted by the police and she ended up spending five years in prison while her children were sent to live with their grandparents. After being released from prison she got her children back but never received any help from anyone. Even the few relatives she had in this country condemned her as a "bad" person. She remarried a nice man from the Middle East after her children were grown and trusted him to be faithful to her. However, when she traveled to Bolivia to bring her niece back to America, upon returning she discovered that her husband had gone back to his native country and left her with nothing but a few items in a storage unit. This was how she ended up in the homeless shelter which gave her the time and help she needed to get back on her feet.
This was how we came to meet our her while doing our Christmas tree project. After all she’s been through, you would think she’d be justified to retain some amount of bitterness or resentment. Instead she is one of the most kind, generous and loving individuals I have ever met. Hard-working too! On the average she holds down three different jobs at one time. Four times a year she and her niece travel from DC to Boston to the Shriver Hospital. While her niece receives treatment, she works at a fast food restaurant nearby and sleeps on the floor in the hospital room. Our children know what this woman has been through and although they can’t quite grasp the obstacles she has had and continues to overcome, they at least, have been exposed. They’ve been made aware that life can be very difficult and even unfair but that we are the ones who have the choice of what to make out of it.
Whenever, I get angry or bitter about some kind of injustice in my life, I am always reminded of this friend, who’s had it so much worse and yet preservers with a beautiful faith and hope that the best may yet be to come! And then I realize how privileged I’ve been to have met this daughter of God and to have the blessing of being her sister. (We even discovered we have the same birthday and in the same year!) Mother Teresa often commented that what we give may seem like a drop in the ocean, but that without that drop, the ocean wouldn’t be the same. My experiences have shown me that God’s heart is the ocean we all come back to and that is the greatest gift of all.
Do your duty until it becomes your joy. -- Marie von Ebner-Eschenback
The Teenager’s Guide to the Real World
by Marshall Brain
Mr. Brain is the author of nine books and is nationally recognized for his ability to communicate complex ideas clearly. He formally taught in the computer science department at North Carolina Sate University, where he was elected to the prestigious Academy of Outstanding Teachers for his work in the classroom. The valuable information in this book helps teenagers to understand what it takes to become successful in real life. It provides facts that will help them make clear choices because of a greater understanding. The topics covered in the various chapters range from advice in handling money, facts on jobs and career, the importance of a good education and good character. One chapter is dedicated to the facts about Love and Marriage. The author explains about the importance and value of lasting relationships and as far as teenage sex is concerned abstinence is highly endorsed. Mr. Brain took on the challenge to write a useful self-help book for teenagers in a language that is simple and matter-of-factly. The section of the book that will be explored in greater depth today is: "20 ways for teenagers to help other people by volunteering."
The author starts by listing reasons why helping is beneficial for teenagers: helping others of course, beating boredom, and one that stands out is to gain perspective on life. Furthermore, all of us know that we start appreciating what we have a lot more when we are in touch with those less fortunate than ourselves. The teenagers are encouraged to find volunteering opportunities that fit their personalities and their abilities. He gives a list of opportunities: among them helping at a homeless shelter or at a food bank. Help is needed there to collect food, to manage the inventory and distribute the food. Another project mentioned is the Guidepost Sweater project sponsored by Guidepost magazine. People around the world knit sweaters for needy children. Ronald McDonald houses are also a great place to lend a hand. Special Olympics are always looking for people to help the children. If you like to get involved in sports training, fund-raising, competition planning, this would be the place for you. If construction is what you enjoy doing, Habitat for Humanity offers lots of opportunities to help. State Parks are for those teenagers who enjoy educational programs, trail building and maintenance.
Other ways to help are teaching illiterate children and adults to read, being a staff member at the local library during the summer reading program or participating at recreational programs at senior citizens homes. The author also gives a list of volunteer organizations that are always looking for extra help: United Way, Red Cross and the Salvation Army. This book offers a wealth of ideas for those willing to step out of their comfort zone and share their talents and skills with other members of society who will greatly appreciate it.
by Mary Ellen Anderson
"We all struggle, only the form is different" -- Beena Rani-Howard
As I was preparing to leave for India, my heart was spinning in and avalanche of emotional turmoil. Beena’s words returned to me again and again before I left for India and during my time in India.
My friend, Irfan, has said to me once when I was feeling sorry for myself, "When you go to India, all your tears will dry up." -- and they did.
How could I escape becoming part of India’s culture, India’s people, India’s passion and pulsing vitality in the everyday experience of our existence. India, the ever-bubbling geyser of energy, love and acceptance.
To be embraced by Indian hospitality is to momentarily enter heaven. How naturally a family living under a plastic tarp on the street would use their entire week’s earnings in order to buy sweets and tea for the honor and comfort of a guest visiting their "home". How can I convey in words the daily heart of a culture so alien to American culture? How do I explain the goat intestines strewn in the streets? the diseased dogs eating them? the crowds that choke and pull you along with their movement? the air pollution that immediately blackens the face, nostrils and throat? so many crippled, blind, diseased beggars living in the streets? so many orphans being abused, used and sold by the Indian "Mafia"? countless adults and children working everyday, 12 hours or more on such menial tasks as folding used newspaper into paper bags? the primitive lustful behavior of the Indian man toward women, particularly foreign women? the accepted uses of bribery and deception in everyday relationships -- at home and at work. Yet, the parents and relatives love their children with such obvious depth, affection, attention, passion and indulgence. The children, in turn, love their parents with incredible devotion and respect and expressiveness.
I worked for three months at Kalighat (Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute and dying). Never have I been so touched by a divine beauty and love as I was by the dying patients there. A person with no one (relatives or friends) is found dying on the street, and is brought to Kalighat by any concerned person (usually a foreign volunteer or one of the Missionary of Charity nuns or brothers).
One young man (19 or 20 years old) had been sitting on a street corner. There were worms crawling out of his foot wound, wrapped with a dirty bandage, flies buzzing around him, and two of his toes eaten away. Another volunteer and I brought him in by rickshaw, bathed him, cleaned and dressed his wound, and tried to encourage him to eat some bread or milk. Although he was skeleton-thin, he had no appetite and refused to eat. As we cleaned his wound, he held onto me to bear the pain. I asked his name. He said, "Sangkar" and would say no more. But the eyes with which he looked at me conveyed so many emotions and meanings -- they told of the harshness of poverty, the sorrow on one who no longer has tears to shed, yet, still has hope that another might extend a caring hand of love.
Often when I would bathe the old women in the mornings at Kalighat, they would thank me by singing Bengali songs or dancing a cute dance in their clean hospital gowns or by bowing to touch my feet in divine respect and thanks. How in awe I was to receive a love and respect far beyond what I deserved or earned -- this was a beautiful, holy gesture that I was able to accept only as one who recognizes the generosity, kindness and love of God.
The women were always talking, talking, talking -- in Hindu, Bengali, Urdu, Malaylam or some other language of India. Although I never caught more than a few words that I knew, I was able to understand the meaning, the expressiveness, the needs, the outpouring of their lives and heart. How I treasured each woman there. Truly, each was a rare and precious jewel. That God honored me with their friendship is far beyond what I could ever deserve. Each woman that I helped care for (perhaps 200 or more) was totally unique and memorable.
Mother Teresa spoke to the volunteers on two separate occasions during the six months I was in Calcutta. Some of the points she stressed over and over were: 1) the importance of seeing God ("Jesus") in the eyes of each person -- no matter how dirty, crippled, poor, diseased or unkind that person might be. 2) to treat each person with the respect you would give "Jesus", Buddha, Krishan, Mohammed, etc. 3) the smallest things, if done with great love, are the most precious and valuable actions (if one action is a drop in the ocean, it is many small drops that indeed make up that ocean).
The entire week before I left for India, I was having nightmares every night. Then, after arriving in Calcutta, I continued having nightmares, was unable to sleep and resolved to go home every day for the first 21 days I was in India. Then, after that first three weeks (overnight it happened), I suddenly wanted to spend the rest of my life in India!
There are over 1000 social service groups and organizations in Calcutta alone. The ones I became most familiar with were Mother Teresa’s homes, an English doctor named Dr. Jack who runs two free street clinics, an English bank manager who runs two homes for street boys and orphans, and an Indian organization called CINI (Children in Need Institute).
When I was living in the corner room of a guesthouse, I was exposed to all the noises of the street (day and night). One night there was the continual crying of an infant. The next morning we went outside to find the child. The baby’s mother opened her shawl to reveal to us a sick, tiny, wrinkled newborn. In my bits of Bengali, I told the mother about Mother Teresa’s home for orphans and sick babies, and a couple of volunteers took the mother and child for a place in the nursery. Each morning we took food to the mother and frequently we visited the baby.
My visit to Darjeeling was like ten days living in a fairy tale. Walking along a high narrow crooked path and looking way out and up toward Mt. Katchenchunga -- looking down into the dense tree and foliage covered hillside, often mystical-looking because of the clouds resting in the cup-like valleys -- observing so many people with baskets on their back suspended from a strap around their forehead -- the brightly colored clothes and scarves they wear ....
To breath the cool, fresh, revitalizing air !!! I remember our trekking -- after four hours of going up, up, up, we reached a point where suddenly the air was even more pure and fresh and my body felt as light as a feather, yet filled with energy and life, as if I could fly, as if I was physically invincible. Certainly, air itself has so many levels of quality -- this pure form of permeable food brought my heart and body and soul to flight, to freedom, coming so near to God.
The morning that I walked to "Observatory Hill" at 6 am, it just happened to be the beginning of the main Hindu religious celebration of the year (Durga Puja). So many people were on the hill, walking and praying and chanting, carrying offerings of flowers and food and money. There was singing that reached one’s ears as of far off celestial music approaching slowly and growing in volume; there was the scent of burning incense and wet pine trees and blooming flowers (lots of jasmine) -- and I was being swallowed by the sweetness of this "dream".
As one friend said to me, "I love Calcutta with one eye and I hate it with the other eye." Calcutta contains the blackest air ever -- air that caused me to cough up blackened phlegm each morning, air that makes it difficult to catch one’s breath at times... And yet, in India, the essence of life is relationship with each other -- material comforts are truly secondary to the importance of another human being.
Each day that I spent in India was yet another bundle of moments wrapped in ribbons given to me by God; and as I untied each ribbon of love, it floated from my hands, whirled around my head and collected in a beautiful pile of memories at my feet, honoring me and delighting in my shared happiness. An experience of the heart longs to be described and to express itself by spreading joy to others and releasing childlike laughter into the world.
It seems that, emotionally, I have been a child for so many years. During my six months in India, suddenly I have matured one thousand years. God has taught me so much and given me so many unattainable (by human effort) gifts; serenity, understanding, greater ability to perceive the needs of others and to give more freely from my heart, greater appreciation for life and people and all things. To meet, to discover the heart of the Indian people, to see how they live, to learn what is important to them and how they relate to the world -- this has somehow taught me or given me the ability to truly and deeply appreciate and be grateful for the bounty of God’s gifts, and the ability to act from a point deeper than my emotions and past sorrows.
As my friend, Irfan, predicted, my tears dried up -- those tears of fear, tears of insecurity, tears of pain from rejection and hurt, tears of past disappointments. I understood that I just didn’t need those tears anymore -- they served no purpose. What seems more necessary in this world and in my life is JOY!! So why not be joyful?
True life can emerge when there is an environment of absolute giving, absolute service and absolute love for others. -- Sun Myung Moon 3-6-77
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