I know that this may seem idealistic and a bit unrealistic to many people; however the doubters of the world are often those who feel they have never felt the warmth of a kind act, or if they have it has been far too seldom. My daughter, who is in kindergarten posed a question to me recently; she asked “Papi why are people mean and say mean things to other people?” She was referencing a student in her class who had said some ‘mean things’ to her. I then proceeded to explain to her that people who do these types of things consistently are often treated in a mean way by somebody else and consequently they may feel bad about themselves, so they try to make others feel bad about themselves too.
As a result I went on to encourage her to not she shouldn’t feel anger towards somebody who is mean to her but instead feel sympathy that someone is being mean to them. You see mi gente treating someone badly is a learned behavior as is kindness and a plethora of other behaviors.
This is important to keep in mind when you have children, or you are being looked up to by un/una hermanito/hermanita. Like it or not children will model the behavior that they see, both positive and negative.
I have to express that I am in no way claiming to be the perfect role model all the time. In fact I am very human and I see many areas for improvement in my life, however I do try to instill what this entire article is all about in my daughter and others who I may be fortunate enough to influence-the importance of giving back.
I remember as a child mi padre used to tell me “Mijo you have a heart of gold, do great things with it.” I wasn’t completely certain what he meant by that at the time, but as I grew and matured I truly began to understand the meaning of those wise words along with countless other lessons he taught me.
I cared about other people and liked helping other people; whether it was sticking up for my little homies on the block or remembering to take a plate of food to an elderly widowed neighbor on Thanksgiving.
I was able to develop this caring demeanor because I witnessed it often. Mi abuela was, is, and always has been such a giver. She along with mi padre, tías, and tío, made great sacrifices and loved both my siblings and I unconditionally. As a result caring about others came naturally, although it was actually nurtured.
I know that life is hard and not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up feeling loved. Nonetheless, that does not mean that the cycle of caring for others cannot begin with you. You have the power and ability to affect change not only in your life, but in the lives of others as well. The formula for doing so is simple-find something you can do to help someone else. It does not require money, or anything material; it simply requires desire, time, and effort.
If you are a young person here are a few things that you can do to make a difference in the life of someone else. You know that little old lady/man that lives on your block? Next time it snows, go shovel his/her sidewalk. Don’t ask for money; don’t even say anything if you don’t have to, just smile.
This works when the grass needs to cut or the leaves need to be raked as well. You can volunteer at your local senior center, serve as a tutor at your school, or a reading buddy for children younger than you. If you have younger siblings help them with their homework or take them to the park to give your parents a break. If you are in high school talk to your principal about volunteer opportunities in your community or go to your neighborhood community center and inquire about volunteerism there. I guarantee that the feeling that you will have after doing any or all of things will be reward enough in itself and it is addicting and contagious.
If you are an adult, then you can do all of the above and more. The most important thing is, if you are a parent get your children involved in your volunteerism. They will love it and it will insure that they see the importance of giving at a young age. I took my daughter and some of my students to a community Thanksgiving dinner months back to volunteer and she was so eager to help. All she did was clear peoples’ plate off the table, but to see the pride in her face as she was doing so was priceless.
If you are in a position to help a cause financially, do it. There are countless non-profit agencies that could stand to benefit from your generosity. Do a little research and find one that reflects your values and interests. Trust me as a board member of a non-profit agency, every little bit helps.
Lastly, remember there are little things that we can all do to make the world we live in a better place. They can all be summed up into following the ‘Golden Rule’-treat others as you wish to be treated. So smile, hold the door, give someone else the parking spot, and cut back on el chisme. I guarantee you will feel good for doing so. ¡Hasta la próxima vez!
I would love to hear from you about my column, please send me feedback or let me know if there is something you would like me to write about. You can e-mail me at [email protected]. ¡Gracias por tu apoyo!