The Dalai Lama once said, “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” I found myself at this very juncture when a young daughter of a family friend lost her life doing good deeds on foreign soil. At only 21 years old, this was a tragedy indeed. Now the question was how to react.
When things like this in life happen so senselessly, it’s easy to get angry and put up walls, declaring that doing good deeds only gets you hurt. We go on the defensive and as an act of self-preservation decide that we can trust no one. We stop taking positive actions toward others because we convince ourselves that we are failing to make a difference, and are putting ourselves in harm’s way in the process.
But I didn’t want to feel like that. I wanted to react differently.
This special young lady was the kind of person that did good deeds without expecting any fanfare for it. And it was clear how many lives she touched by the hundreds of people that showed up to pay their final respects before she was laid to rest. This made me question my own process of doing good deeds. Specifically, why did my ego need to look good to others?
It’s like when you are at the bank or supermarket and open the door for someone in a wheelchair only to return home and tell your spouse or partner of the good deed you just did. Or when a child comes knocking at your door to sell candy bars for a local charity, sending you to work the next day telling all of your coworkers how you bought 5, 10, or 20 of them in order to help them out.
Why do we feel the need to share when we do something nice?
In searching for an answer, I took this question to my men’s group who suggested that we set out to do good deeds without seeking fanfare. The goal was to make someone else’s life better, easier, or happier, but we couldn’t tell anyone else what we did. The only ones that would know would be the men in our group and the people we hopefully helped.
Realistically, I’ve always done things like taken the time to open a door for someone, and I’m guessing that you have too, but now I was doing it on a higher level of consciousness. As a result I noticed that, even though I was going through the same motions as before, my attitude had shifted. My actions became more than just habit. Now they were conscious decisions to make someone smile or breathe a little easier, even if only for a moment.
In this respect, I intentionally decided to challenge myself and find my inner strength to do good deeds in the same manner that my friends daughter did – without expecting anything in return. Thus, instead of doing good deeds unconsciously, I have grown and evolved into the person that does for others not because I want others to know about it, but because I will know. And at the end of the day, I want to feel good about who I am.
This is the best way I know to honor her memory. She made an impact on everyone she touched without the need to share it, and now I intend to do the same