Recently I watched a TED talk by Marla Spivak about why bees are disappearing. I learned a lot about how intertwined we are with nature and how some of our current behaviors are not only hurting animals and plants, but our future as well. However I am not writing to preach about environmental issues. What I would like to share is my realization about how we all go throughout our days without truly realizing how our actions and words have a ripple effect around us.
It is common knowledge that bees pollinate flowers. But Ms. Spivak explained, "Bees are not out there pollinating our food intentionally. They're out there because they need to eat. Bees get all the protein they need from pollen and all the carbohydrates they need from nectar." Because these little guys are hungry, they are actually providing the means of food production for humans and animals. Bees are not grand humanitarians; they are simply going about their day.
Many of the individuals I coach are humanitarians. They live to give. They give to their family, their children, their jobs, and usually they also have a deep desire to give to humanity and the world overall. Sometimes they give too much, putting a social agenda above their own needs, resulting in burnout. Sometimes they feel unfulfilled or a failure if they are not doing "big enough" work, if they are not helping to make large societal changes, if they are not changing the lives of millions. When I saw this TED talk, I found hope for all of my givers. We all do not have the means of Bill and Melinda Gates to do large scale programs. We all do not have the celebrity of Geena Davis to use for gender equality awareness. We all do not have the world platform of Pope Francis to call for the end of poverty. But each of us, each and every day, are able to effect the world around us.
Years after college a friend of mine who had just appeared in a movie with Denzel Washington told me he would not be an actor if it was not for me. I was confused. In college I never singled this person out to support and encourage. He told me of a single incident that changed his life. He didn't want to audition for a play for fear of rejection. I told him if he didn't audition, he was already rejected. If he did audition, he at least had a chance at a part. He did audition and he did get a part. To this day, I don't have a recollection of this conversation. I was just going about my business like a busy bee. I just happened to provide the right words and encouragement at the right time to make a change in someone else's life.
Giving money and time to volunteer organizations is noble, needed, and fulfilling. But we don't have to give up our lives to give to others. Every day is a chance to give to others by just being ourselves. We can smile in a grocery line. We can help our elderly neighbor bring in the groceries. We can take a friend to the doctor. We can talk to a graduate about landing their first job. None of these activities would take a lot of time or necessarily take us out of our routine. We don't need to start a non-profit in order to contribute. Just being aware during the day will show opportunities for helping those around us. And our little effort can have a big impact in the long run.
"If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you'll end up not doing nothing for nobody." -- Malcom Bane
What can you do today in your daily routine to give a little to those around you?