It’s okay to admit that you sometimes feel lonely. That sometimes you wonder ‘If I were to die today, would anyone even care?’ Do my friends and loved ones care about me as much as I think they do?
I myself have struggled with those same thoughts. At the time, they were my reality. But there’s a secret that I now know that you will too at the end of this post.
Be the change you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi
That is a cliché quote, but, it is cliché and old because of the powerful truth behind it. I do not believe in karma, but I do believe in spreading goodwill out into the world. I believe that through that original source of goodwill, you can be the driving force that changes the entire planet for the better.
I started thinking about what kinds of things you could do for the planet through simple acts of kindness after re-watching the movie ‘Seven Pounds’. For those that don’t know, the basic plot of the movie is that Will Smith’s character, Tim Thomas, accidentally kills 6 strangers and his fiancée when sending a text while driving. Unable to cope with what he’s done he sets out to change the lives of 7 other people who he deems to be good. He completes this at the end of the movie by committing suicide so that his vital organs will go to two people in need of them.
I’ve not done the plot justice at all, it’s an awe inspiring movie but the underlying made me think of ‘paying it forward’. Could paying it forward be a real thing that human beings do? And if they do, what can it do for the human population? Can you and I spark a movement that changes the river of time and of history?
President Herbert Hoover thinks so.
The story of a movement that shook the fabric of reality for millions of people in the best way possible begins in 1892, at Stanford University. A then young Hoover was struggling to pay his college fees. Like a lot of college students today, he didn’t have the greatest of resources at his disposal, so he had to think of something. As they say, necessity is the mother of all invention and this couldn’t have rang truer in the re-telling of a karma classic. Young Hoover and his friend came up with the idea to host a musical concert on campus for a great touring pianist. That pianist was Polish composer Ignacy J. Paderewski, who was one of the leading pianists in the world during his time. A deal was made that the great pianist would play in their piano recital but would be paid a guaranteed fee of $2,000.
When the big day had come and gone they had unfortunately only totaled around $1,600. The reason for the colossal failure was because the two boys had neglected the fact that it was at the same time as Spring Break. Ticket sales were appalling. Disheartened they had nothing they could do but go back to the pianist with what they had and do their best to cover the leftover of the fee they needed to pay.
“No.” said Paderewski, “This is unacceptable.” He immediately returned the money and told the two boys “Here’s the $1,600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees and just give me whatever is left.”
They were stunned.
Such a small act of kindness. But why? Why should a great pianist like Paderewski help two people he barely knew in such a big and such offhanded way? I cannot begin to tell you, but what I can tell you is that Hoover would never forget this single gesture.
Paderewski went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland when the World War was to begin and end. When the World War had begun, Poland was decimated.
With over a million of his people starving in his country and no money to feed them he had nowhere to turn for help. In his desperation he eventually reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.
Guess who the head of the FDA was at the time…
Got an answer?
You’re almost certainly correct, it was indeed Herbert Hoover.
Hoover agreed to help and shipped food to the starving Polish people, saving innumerable lives, some of which have undoubtedly gone on to affect others.
An ecstatic Paderewski decided to journey over to America and meet this great man who saved so many of his people and to thank him in person for his noble gesture.
In the middle of his thank you he was interrupted by Hoover who said “You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students get through college by forgiving a debt in fees. I was one of them.”
The Prime Minister helped save millions of lives before he had even become Prime Minister, he had saved millions of lives at the cost of only $1,600 to himself. A price that was small to him at the time, but rippled out to become a lifesaving powerhouse later on.
As for Hoover, he went on to become President and to become a household name in Poland. Hoover was also immortalized in a museum exhibit, “Herbert Hoover in Poland: Pioneer Humanitarian at Work.”
After World War II, he co-founded the other massive humanitarian organizations UNICEF and CARE, which have fed unimaginable amounts of lives to this day. All from one simple act of kindness have so many people been saved.
As good as a story as that is, does it still apply to today’s generation?
Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey think so. But rather than listen to me drone on and on about it, play this short 5 minute clip and hear about it from themselves:
‘Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’ Albert Einstein.
There is a reason that people who live for others can live with less material things in their life. What you do for people feels good. That’s why people like Oprah and Tony Robbins are so happy with their lives, they have given to something beyond themselves and made a real impact on the world. They’ve also become very wealthy (both financially and emotionally) through it all as well as immortalized because of their actions. Long after they have died, people will cherish them.
Scientists have even given it a name: ‘Helpers High’ and it can even help you reduce stress and live a healthier life! There was a study of researches back in 1956 that followed the lives of 427 married women with children. They assumed that the housewives with more children would have greater stress but actually found that numbers of children, education, and class did not affect longevity. After following these women for 30 years, the researchers found that 52% of those who did not volunteer had experienced a major illness, compared to only 36% of those who did volunteer. That’s an 18% drop to put a volunteer well below half! They also found that older adults who volunteered were living longer than nonvolunteers. Another large study found a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot.
With stress, it releases hormones like cortisol and produces the infamous ‘fight or flight’ response. For those that don’t know, it’s where our heart and breathing rates increase so that we can better detect threats in our environment. A little bit is good, but too much can shorten your lifespan as with all of this requires more energy and more hormone production which ultimately weakens your body’s defenses and makes it more vulnerable to disease.
The good thing, however, is that the ‘helper’s high’ seems to gain dominance over the stress response.
If you’re interested in reading more, you can go here where you can read all about:
Not only does it make you feel good but it’s good for you, physiologically. Then of course the material benefits aren’t so bad either.
What all of this means is that helping people can not only help yourself mentally and emotionally but also physically: however, as in all things, it does require balance.
Just as a normal drug high, it can be destructive so remember to practice balance. You can practice balance between saving the world and saving yourself by working on yourself. Remember, it’s your life, so you do have to look out for yourself and make sure that you are happy before you can contribute to the world’s happiness.