For most of us, the most powerful sense of meaning comes from doing something that makes us feel as if we’re making a contribution to the world. Making a contribution connects us to our community and our society as a whole, in a way that makes us feel better when we know that there’s something we’ve done to help someone else, particularly when that person is in need. There’s a reason that charity is an integral part of every world religion and most decent societies help other people because it is very clearly, a vital component of life. There are so many ways to make a difference. Last week I was privileged to witness firsthand individuals who give their time and loving kindness to those who have served our country and have returned wounded. The facility for wounded warriors is staffed by extraordinary people who seem to have limitless energy and copious amounts of compassion. So often we get caught up in our own physical or mental pains that our world become incredibly insular. I have been struggling with joint pain that will necessitate two knee replacements. There are times when I rail against the universe as to “why me”? When I heard the stories of men and women, some of whom have suffered incredible trauma, it gave me new perspective on my own issues. My mother’s favorite quote was “ I cried when I had no shoes, till I saw the man with no feet”. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget how lucky we our since it is quite human to be involved with our own pain. One of the ways to sustain feeling fortunate about what life hands us is to find meaning and purpose. When we attach meaning to whatever we do or whatever fate befalls us, life seems to become more spiritual. Many of us become aggravated at the slightest inconveniences, taking time and energy to try to find whose fault it was or why we are always the one the proverbial bird finds to eliminate on. Perhaps taking a moment to stop your internal patter to think about one thing you appreciate about your life will help you reframe the situation. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Barbara WInter“ When you are on the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly”.
I am absolutely amazed and awed by the animal kingdom. Many a night I prefer to watch National Geographic Wild than any other shows. Over the last few years I have learned so much about how animals interact and how much smarter and compassionate they are. Therefore, I am increasingly appalled by how a percentage of humans still consider animals to not have any mental reactions when they are held captive or physically abused. Studies in animal behavior are showing more and more that psychological damage suffered by dogs living in puppy mills is profound and exists long after they’ve been rescued. Even when placed in loving homes with individuals who take great care to handle them with love and tenderness, many still have elevated levels of fears and phobias, and an inability to respond to affection. Anecdotal evidence has long shown that the dogs, lacking normal human contact and living predominately in cages often suffer from post-traumatic depression. When I took Psychology 101 in college they discussed something called Hospitalism which was a diagnosis used in the 1930s to describe infants who wasted away while in hospitals from lack of human contact. The symptoms could include retarded physical and mental development, and disruption of perceptual-motor skills and language. Many soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. The sounds and images of war and the actual involvement in being in a constant state of “fight or flight” leaves the brain more vulnerable and often unable to integrate into their former lives counseling and the love and understanding of friends and family. Many of the articles I have read about war and the toll it takes on mind/body and spirit seem so obvious. How could you not be influenced by being the witness to death and destruction? All of the above whether it involves animals, babies, children or adults continues to show us that our brains hold on to memories long after they have passed. We cannot simply erase them for they become who we are. I often wish I could remove thoughts that seem to have minds of their own. Round and round they go and they create feelings that can be positive or negative. Perhaps the day will come when there will be a global epiphany that realizes that kindness, respect, and compassion towards each other and our animal friends is the only way to live.