Life becomes one sided with chronic pain. I know it is more blessed to give than to receive. I keep reading about the benefits of volunteering and I want to do my part, to be blessed and give, to be competent and whole, to live a reciprocal life. I don’t want to be stuck on the down side of a teeter-totter.
So how to give and how to feel we have anything worth giving? I can’t stand or sit long, which rules out volunteering at the hospital, collecting for charity, manning phone lines, in fact, anything really useful.
But I was reading Happiness by Design and it got me thinking. Did you know that if someone living nearby becomes happier, we feel better too? And what about picking up a friend’s or teenage daughter’s mood? Hell, I can even feel it when the cat is off.
Unconsciously we copy people’s expressions when watching them. Our neurons fire up to mirror them. Think of a mother spoon-feeding her baby. And as we smile in response to another’s pleasure, the simple act of moving our facial muscles makes us feel happier, which does make me query the effect of watching murder mysteries.
So how, I wondered, could I use this to make a difference? At least I can be cheerful with everyone I meet and try to see the whole person – the tired cashier or overworked sales assistant. And engage with them as people, not ciphers. The reward is that spark of warmth and recognition at our common humanity. And that’s what I remember each night when I look back over each day, warmed by their smile.
It’s not much to offer, but at least it is something I can do and in our hurried, texting days, surely it is even more important for us to affirm what is priceless: another person’s heart.
Mirror neurons – link
Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, not What You Think by Paul Dolan.
The site Avaaz, a global organization that promotes activism on issues like climate change, poverty and human rights, has started a page Three Principles for 2015. These are: show kindness and respect, strive for wisdom, cultivate gratitude. If we can join to mirror these, the world would be a better place.