Owning Your Story

On Christmas eve last year, I was still working till about 10 in the evening. I know what you’re thinking. Mind you, it’s not the job. There have been few things here and there that we’re put on hold ‘till 24th because I was on leave for a day. But what made it a long night for work was simply because I chose to. 

You see, I could have decided to pick up the rest of the things the week after, but I didn’t. Choice indeed shapes the kind of experiences we get in life. Here are a couple of things I began to reflect on.

We reap the consequences of the things we put up with.

Take for example the way people treat us. When somebody disrespects you as a human being or disrespects your time, for instance, it’s worth asking yourself:  

Am I contributing to this experience? 

Have I shown him disrespect? 

Have I not made a request for us to respect each other’s time?

Am I experiencing this from this person alone? If yes, this whole thing might not be about me but about him.

Can I change something around this?

Put in reverse, we might have to take a look at how we treat ourselves too. Do we tolerate our laziness, our lack of motivation, our lack of commitment, our being irresponsible, or us not learning lessons from our past mistakes? What are the instances when we might have disrespected ourselves and failed to hold ourselves high up the moral curve? 

How we treat others is reflective of how we treat ourselves. 

The way we show up to the external world around us gives a glimpse of how we show up in our inner world.

We get what we give.

I always believe in the power of intentionality. It’s ideal but not as easy as we think.  

Say you are intentional about designing a balanced life. There are several routes you can go with this, but it all starts with defining what for you is a “balanced life”.

For every person, priorities are circumstance-specific. Meaning, they get arranged according to where we are right now in our life. A student will have different priorities than a wife who just had a baby. Someone whose health is failing might have a different priority than somebody who got his first job. We can never compare and we can never judge how a person designs his own life.

There’s the catch though. I mentioned “design”. You see we have to actively participate in our own story. If we give out crap, we will surely get crap. When we do something good, there’s a big possibility it’s gonna come around like that too. Yes, in reality, bad things happen to good people. But even in that, I believe something good could still come out of it. At least that’s what I’ve seen in my own life.  

Life is what we make it.

There’s really not much we can do about things beyond our control. My faith is in what we can do, to things that are within our control. There’s no point complaining about our experiences and our circumstances. We can choose to stay stuck with what’s undesirable in our life or find ways to move forward. 

So how does this circle back to my Christmas eve story? Well, yes I finished work late but I slept soundly like a baby and enjoyed the 25th without wishing I was somewhere else doing something else.

Choice. It is really powerful. 

We can be pushed around if we allow to.

We can define boundaries if need be.

We can drift through life and not make a call, or,

We can exercise the inner muscle of being intentional and design our life like “We own our own story”. 

Because truth is, we do.

The Monster, The Rabbit, The Bee, and The Lion

I have to say it now, this is not a fairy tale story.

I happened to watch “The Masked Singer” season one on youtube, and I was captivated by the mystery and excitement it brings. 

In the show, you get to see contestants doing a different song every week, with the judges acting as detectives trying to identify who’s the mystery man or woman behind the mask. A contestant who loses the vote on any given week will be unmasked. The show ends with “The Great Reveal” so to speak. It’s crazy but endearing in a melt-your-heart kind of way.

The Identity Revelation

To me, this is the most inspiring part.

The Lion

She turned out to be Rummer Willis who had been known as an actress and a dancer, apart from being a daughter of the famous couple Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Rummer joined the show to prove to the world she can sing, and was definitely awesome at it! The lion commanded the stage in every performance.

The Bee

This was Gladys Knight. An Icon in Soul music who at the time of joining the show was already 75! When asked why she joined, she said, “We should always strive to do different kinds of things because they elevate us eventually.”

The Rabbit

Joey Fatone. Joey wasn’t a show stealer, at least for me, back in the day. But hearing Robin Thicke say, “With a personality like that, it could only be Joey Fatone. Joey just lights up every room he goes into”, tells me how great this person truly is.

Finally, The Monster

None of the detective judges guessed him right except for show host Nick Cannon. Nobody thought the man behind The Monster was T-Pain. “When you hear the name T-Pain you automatically think Auto-Tune,” T-Pain said. “I just wanted to get rid of that.” And oh my, after all those performances, without a doubt the entire world, finally, would take him seriously and wonder why it didn’t see past the rapper- auto-tune image of him until the show.

I guess a show like this reminds us about a few things.

We box people in.

We size them up and make up our minds about the limits they can be afforded as human beings. Usually, these limits are very low. We find it difficult to imagine people having the capacity to expand their boundaries or become someone else entirely. No wonder why we miss a lot of goodness and beauty in the world. Our sense of appreciation is very narrow.

As we grow old we kind of lose our faith in what’s magical, possible, or extraordinary. 

But, believe it or not, everything on earth has been carefully thought of by the One who made it. There’s no one extra person in the world. Everyone and everything has his or her own place and we come bearing treasures.

We are afraid of our own light.

I think one of the reasons why contestants in the show are more comfortable performing behind the mask is that they know that out there, they can be somebody else and still feel safe. But at the same time showing who you truly are, the rawness and genuineness of it all scare you too. It makes you feel quite unsure if you’ll like what you find, or be delighted to meet a different version of you.  

We fail to uncover our own potential because we want what’s safe, what’s validated by the world, or what our loved ones and friends say we should be doing. In short, we conform. We don’t risk it all. We’re like candles kept in the dark afraid of burning ourselves. Not knowing that being lit would have realized our very purpose.

The second act.

We usually tie our identity to our past, what we use to do, who we used to be. The position, role, accolades, awards, and success stories, we think that’s all there is to who we are. But as long as we live there’s always something new that we could do. Glady’s Knight said it best. Doing a new thing elevates us. It adds up to our resume, our skillset, builds our capacity, and more importantly restores our faith in ourselves.  

If you are like me and you want to have more exciting stories to tell your grandkids when you grow old, create new experiences every time. There’s nothing more liberating and fulfilling than uncovering your own treasure. You don’t want to take that treasure to your grave. It belongs to this lifetime, to this place. In other words, it can only be useful here. So use it now and make it count.

I hope this gives us something to think about.

Has the world boxed me in? 

Am I afraid of my own light?

What treasures do I uncover for my second act?

I believe that there’s always more than meets the eye. We are more than what people see, more than what we allow ourselves to be. The same is true with others. If we carry the light within us and allow others to carry theirs, imagine what a bright world it will be. And with everyone and everything freely emanating his or its own hue, we could create a colorful and magical world that may have once existed only in a dream, but this time, we’re building it for real.

Where There Is Discontent

The sweet, strong, aroma of brewed coffee at six in the morning.  

The feel of winter breeze. 

The sweet melodies the birds make.

The warmth of my pink sweater and green pajamas.

Contentment.  

Where does it come from? 

How can one have it?

These are sort of the questions you kind of ponder on in the quiet hours of the day.

Insights from a friend or a loved one would prove invaluable. But processing your thoughts and emotions is a big deal especially if you look at areas of your life where there is discontent.

Personally, at first, I thought I’m good. I’m sorted. I don’t have any complaints. I’m taking responsibility. I’ve chosen pains I wanted to endure. I’m living up to the choices I made.

But I took another hard look at my life and lives of people I know and saw it. Like bubbles surfacing on deep waters.

Excessiveness.

Obsession.

Possessiveness.

Sometimes discontentment tries to hide behind those three things.  Talk about excessive eating, partying, social media, commitments, entertainment, or sleep. It can be on the edge of obsession. Too much desire for power, money, accolades, fame, and validation, or perhaps possessiveness when it comes to love and relationships.

Where there is overindulgence, addiction or unhealthy desire for something, there is discontentment lurking in the deepest part of us. It’s insidious. It creeps through areas of our life unknowingly, and to be able to overcome it, I believe we need to heal. 

As I look at areas of my life where unhealthy excessiveness is present, I realize it’s rooted in some deep childhood hurt. A wound that’s still open, likely ignored, or worse, denied.

I think it’s the same for all people. We all walk around like we’re rock solid and strong when most of the time we are but fragile, broken beings. We go out there with our shields up. Unbeknown to everybody and even to ourselves, that we are hurting people, and keep hurting ourselves, because that little child in us, is hurt, in pain and still needs to heal. Our failure or neglect to attend to that wound just allowed it to bleed out as it does so until now.

How do we heal?

Few things come to mind.  

We can either change the past or change our perception of it.  

Most of mistakes in the past cannot be undone. So the only way to accept it is change the way we see it. We can’t attach ourselves to a perception that doesn’t help us become better human beings. It’s counter-progressive.  

Grace is helpful too. It translates to acknowledging our past, forgiving ourselves and other people who we believe may have wronged us, regardless if they ask. We didn’t know better then and so did they. Grace sometimes means knowing the past may have left us some scars, and that’s okay. We’re okay and we will be okay.

Finally, acceptance. To me this means, recognizing the hurt as a part of my past. But, it doesn’t have to define my present. We are capable of change, of evolving as the people around us are. We just need to give ourselves that chance, that permission, to rise and become a new and better person.  

Have you recognized some discontentment in your life? You are not alone. We are all a work in progress. Why don’t we go back to the root of it all and help ourselves to heal? It won’t happen overnight but progress is possible if we show up for ourselves day by day.

The Hike

As beginners, we attempted to hike 2600M up a mountain trail. Did we make it?

My friends and I made it halfway through. Good sense told us to head back down before nightfall. Was I disappointed? Not at all, but I sure have something to attempt again next time.

What this novel experience taught me:

Spontaneity

Be ready for sudden inspiration. Oftentimes the muse eludes you like butterflies you keep chasing across the fields. When it shows up, welcome it. Know that it’s not going to stay forever. 

A mentor of mine once said, when intuition presents itself, listen to it, or it will stop reaching out to you. I don’t mean being reckless by this. I believe if you are anchored to something good, your intuitions and inspirations are meant to lead you to something good too. Be it to surprise you or protect you. Any way it will help you land on higher ground.

Presence

I am in for the journey, not the destination. The story of our life unfolds between destinations, between a starting point and an endpoint. Much of the colors are there, good and bad, we get to soak in them equally. 

When I hear the words “You have arrived” I don’t really believe it. I believe we will always be moving, always arriving someplace until we’re not. So I choose to walk wherever the road leads, regardless of the season. It only ends when God says so. Even after that, who knows I might be treading down more beautiful paths. 

Value

Success by world standards meant finish lines, graduations, degrees, titles. Everybody celebrates that. But very few look at failed attempts, half-bakes, second takes, round twos, try again. 

I think the value of each completed task lies in how much one has given up to achieve it. I liken it to that poor widow in the Bible who gave two coins and Jesus said she gave more than anybody else did. Those two coins were all she had. 

The value of something you give lies in how much it cost you

So if we talk about love, how much did it cost you to give? 

Now, the Summit

I admire people who persevere. Most fulfilled people I know are the ones who endured difficulties for something they cared about. Be it family, a calling, a purpose, a feat, however, that person or thing meant to them. 

George Mallory made several failed attempts to climb Mount Everest, that he once was quoted to say, “That mountain cannot grow any bigger, but we can”. His body was reportedly found in May 1999, after 75 years. It was believed he reached the summit but had a fall accident climbing back down.

Some might say it was a waste but I think, to George Mallory, it was all worth it. The climb was important to him. While the world is still trying to figure what happened, he may be looking down saying “it doesn’t matter”. He gave everything he had to what he cared about the most.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note, so know that not all pursuits end in tragedy! Some end in joy. That said, we’re merely interpreters of the story.

So focus on writing your own and remember to ask yourself time and again “Do I believe in this”?

That, “one thing” you can die or live for, is not up to anyone’s choice, but yours.

SUNDAEWRITES

The “Hitting Two Birds With One Stone” Experience

I got rid of my keyboard and drum set months back along with all other stuff. The intention was to “slim down”.  

The pandemic brought a lot of things into focus and to me, one of those was how much stuff I’ve accumulated while living in a foreign land. Mind you, it’s not like I have a permanent residence here, so to realize I can’t anymore fit my stuff in one luggage and travel light was kind of weighing on my shoulder.

Projecting this thought to how we live on planet earth reveals how we accumulate a lot of material things too, when we are all but pilgrims who can never take more than our souls in then end. Even memories have the possibility of inexistence.

Does trimming down mean I can’t possibly live a big life? 

Ironically, during that time I was conceptualizing a podcast and the title I’ve been drawn into, is you guessed it, “The Big Life”. The fear of losing and missing things drowned as weeks went on. Apparently I didn’t need a lot of stuff to create something. Getting rid of all excess tested my creativity and challenged me with this constantly pressing question, 

“So, what can you make out of this?”.

Months after, I saw myself producing videos, launching episodes, writing articles, covering songs and yes focusing on things requiring my attention at that time- family, work and prayer. The more I got rid of things in-excess, the more I realized that I didn’t really need them. Allowing myself to fill what seemed like “empty space” has actually pulled me away from what I value at the core. As I saw more things popping up, I lost sight of what was significant and important in my life.

The other side to the story is, at one point in time I thought I lost my gift for music and even writing. A friend of mine thought to himself, “I can never be that guy anymore who runs a marathon or cycle up through mountain tracks”. Another thought, “I can never go back to my 25-year-old shape”. One said, “I can never go up that stage again and deliver a powerful speech”. Another summed it all, “My days of victory are gone, that’s it, I think I’m done”. My friend, did you find yourself in these moments too?

From where I’m standing, I see excuses. I see US giving up on us, and doing it before everyone else does. I think this is classic example of self-sabotage, for:

  • How can others believe in us when we’ve already lost faith in ourselves?
  • How can we see possibilities when we’ve already closed doors?
  • How can we create new victories when we refuse to see that better and best years are still to come?

We’ve never really lost our gifts nor our capacity to build and create.

The gifts just got buried underneath while we fill our jars with lots of “nice-to-haves” and “responsibilities” spiced up with excuses like “I can’t”. Again, a realization that rose to the surface after clearing out the “garbage” and “noise” brought about by mindless accumulation.

If you’re up to the challenge, here it goes: Break that spell!  

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.

Henry Ford

You can always start again.

You can always brush the dust off your old violin and play it.

You can always show up to the gym, go for a half a mile run, or cycle through the neighborhood.

You can always accept opportunities to speak regardless of the size of audience.

You can always pull up your journal and scribble your thoughts.

You can.

All you need to do is to start, right here, right now.

Take action.

Stop thinking and start doing.

Don’t look for that gift you “think“ you’ve lost.

Look for that person who refused to show up.

Look for You.

Show up for YOU.

How your life goes from this point on, is entirely up to you. Now it’s your turn.

Is your Life a Sham or an Escape?

Two sides of a coin.

We pursue things we don’t really want

Peer pressure, society standards, parents’ wishes, people’s expectations.

We let these things determine the course of our lives and later find ourselves asking, “Why again am I doing this? Who is it for?”.

Clarifying questions like these are helpful.  Often, the questions are easy to ask. The challenge is, the answers we get. Do we like what we hear?

Starting over when necessary for you, would take:

  • Re-defining your intention, 
  • spending time alone with your thoughts, 
  • looking into your heart,
  • taking inventory of what you have,
  • imagining the future you want,
  • charting your course,
  • making the first step,
  • and then the next,
  • and then the next, 
  • and so on.

Building on top of what you already do or have would require the same process. Mind you, you’re not going to use all the tools you’ve gathered up to this point but surely there is something you could work with.

Our desires are misplaced. We feed our cravings instead of focusing on things we value the most.

SUNDAEWRITES

We don’t “want” the things that are good for us.

Think about craving for likes and shares vs focusing on creating.

  • – Fans and followers vs our most important relationships
  • – Success and accolades vs learning and growth
  • – Accomplishment and outcomes vs process and experiences
  • – Luxurious travel destinations vs creating a life you wouldn’t want to escape from.

We are often conflicted. 

On one hand, we want things for us but we want them easy. We despise hard work and run away from challenges and difficulties. We escape reality and seek refuge in fantasy.

On the other, we work hard on things to satisfy others’ expectations even if it drowns our own.

So how can we turn this around? Is there a way we can change the narrative in our own story?

Intention.

I believe this is the missing piece.  

We are easily swayed to having or pursuing what’s “in”, what’s popular, and we carry through days mindlessly ticking off “have to’s”. No wonder why we fall victim to overwhelm, stress, and “time is never enough” syndrome.

Setting out intentions first thing in the morning or wherever you are right now while mulling over this idea would require you to clarify your values. So, what do you value the most?

  • Is it enriching relationships?
  • Is it security?
  • Is it joy?
  • Is it freedom?
  • Is it peace?
  • Is it integrity?
  • Is it love for service?
  • Is it passion?
  • Is it Meaning?

There could be others but imagine these values as your moral compass so to speak. Once you know them,

  • you could build intentions,
  • decisions,
  • actions, and
  • priorities around them.

All else can be blurred in the background or will have to wait. After all, with limited time, space, and resources, you can only focus on a few things and make them significant.

You can’t be everything to everyone. So, carefully choose what you want to do and above that, carefully choose who you want to be.

An Exit Door Is An Entry Somewhere

I saw the quote flash on the screen while waiting for a lift.

An ordinary workday turned interesting as I let those words sink in and nudge me into a pondering state. Undoubtedly, it made perfect sense.

Many times in life, we hold on too long because we’re scared, worried, or anxious. Perhaps we think what we currently have is too good to let go of. We get stuck, unnecessarily, even when circumstances don’t fit anymore to what we deserve or aspire to have.

The WHY

This is anchored to the kind of mindset we have- one of scarcity. It influences our view of tomorrow. But If we could think of the universe as friendly, that it has our back and desires the good for us, it makes a lot of difference when we’re traveling down a dark path. We get to hold a torch of hope and expectation that life can only get better and we can be excited about it.

A few friends of mine have plans to start over and do something different. In an age where most people are settling for what’s certain and comfortable, it can be a bit scary. But my friends are facing their fears head-on. You’ve heard it once said,

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. 

Excitement is an understatement.

I am overly thrilled for my friends, for the possibilities that they could explore and discover and fall in love with. One spoke about, putting rest to doubts and second guesses, “I don’t wanna feel safe. I wanna feel like, I’ve done it, you know. To not just dream, but actually live the dream”. When you have conversations like that, your spirit just soars.

It’s never easy to take risks regardless of how calculated those are. Circumstances need to be thought about and one needs to size himself up – how much of the consequence is he willing to take. There’s always one to every decision made. 

The DOOR

Walking through an exit door promises a lot of possibilities. I believe there’s a good reason why life leads us to it. If everything in our past has been building up to this moment, why don’t we just own and embrace it?

A good reminder too is to know that between those doors are significant chapters of our life. So if I were you, I’d make sure to fill those chapters with stories I would want to tell when I am old. We don’t get to stay in those chapters for too long.

A little bit more and an exit door opens. Before we know it, we’re in another time and space creating new memories.

SUNDEWRITES

Off you go.

How Learning Can Make More Sense

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

O.W. Holmes

Right there, do you see what our mind is capable of? It can grow. It can expand. But how?

Learning is a process and can be accomplished by a combination of different methods.

  • Taking a class
  • Reading a book
  • Conducting an Experiment
  • Participating in Group discussions/conversations
  • Attending a seminar
  • Observing
  • Researching
  • Interviewing / Asking questions / listening
  • Practicing/rehearsing

The list can go on and on but learning starts with one thing, being open.

Bruce Lee

In a movie scene, Bruce Lee’s ghost appears to an aspiring student. At one point the master raises two glasses, one filled with water, one filled with soda. Water represents everything that the student already knows. The soda represents what Bruce Lee wants to teach. He now starts pouring the soda into the glass filled with water. As expected, the glass overflows. It can no longer hold the soda since it’s already full. At that point the student understood. He must first empty his glass so he can be filled with something new that the master wants to teach.

Learning in real life is the same thing. We must first empty our cup. That means we must be willing to be taught. We must be willing to listen. We must be willing to fail and do better.

We can always learn by ourselves or through other people.

Every day scientists and all of the great minds in the world discover something new. Everyday too, we are surrounded by people, full of wisdom, and whose lives are built upon rich experiences. All we need to do is tap the source and knowledge will flow.

I love learning from other people. I don’t mind being the most stupid person in the room. If I don’t know, I don’t pretend that I know. I ask. I look for answers. Funny, when it is not knowledge but the wisdom you seek, oftentimes the answers are there staring right in front of you.

At this point, I think you and I can agree that knowledge is information, and wisdom is that deeper sense of understanding. We can have all the information in the world, but knowing what really makes sense and meaningful to you, is a different thing.  

All of us have the capacity to fit millions of stuff into our brains, but we have to be careful though. Our mind is like a garden. The seeds that we sow, bear fruit. The key is, be responsible.

The Next Level

Up until now, we have only emphasized the capacity of our minds to receive information. The next level is it’s the ability to create.

Most of us have become comfortable with the idea of just consuming. Creating requires more muscles to work. So most people would avoid that. If you really want your brain to expand, inspire it to create. Other than that, why do you think should you bother?

Creating restores the balance in the universe. Life is always a give and take.

sundaewrites

You plant, you harvest. You breathe in, you breathe out. Have you tried inhaling oxygen and not exhaling? You won’t be able to do it for more than 20 seconds.

We are not just consumers in this world. We are also called to contribute. Every good thing that we create or do, sends positive energy to the universe and that single thing will have a ripple effect.

Your Challenge

In the vast sea of information you find out there, take one that you could use to create something good. A simple one will do. 

Maybe, it’s “How to make a homemade brownie”. Make some, and invite friends over for tea or coffee. That’s you investing in relationships.

Maybe, it’s “How to grow vegetables in your balcony garden”. Grow some. That’s you being practical, feeding on healthy food, getting involved in producing.

Maybe, it’s “How to play the violin”. Learn, practice, master, and play not just for yourself but for the people around you. That’s you embracing art. It’s good for the soul. Music can soothe weary hearts and lift people up. Just imagine how many lives you can touch playing a beautiful masterpiece.

Simple or complex, it doesn’t matter. Just do something, create something.

Leave your imprints in the world.

Make it more beautiful than you found it.

SUNDAEERITES

Voice

What if God takes away the thing you care about the most?

Back in 2014, I lost my voice for a week. I came down with a cold and could only muster a sound of a whisper. My throat and my chest were in pain. This has been the third time I battled against the fear of permanently losing my voice, but let me tell you about the first.

High School

I had the opportunity to lead as an officer in Citizenship Advancement Training. I can’t remember now what we were preparing for at that time, but it required us to train for almost three hours every day regardless of the weather. My rank required massive use of my voice during training as each command needs to be heard by almost 150 students spread out in an open field. Long story short, I lost my voice exactly a month before the big event.

My mom and I came to see a doctor in town and I was advised not to let out any sound nor exert an effort to speak for an entire month. I was ordered to write notes or use hand signals to communicate. The warning was, if I don’t get better, I might lose my voice permanently. Imagine the terror I felt.  

Every day on my way to school, I dropped by the church to pray. Each time I would beg God to give my voice back and I swore to protect and treasure it. In the meantime, as we continue to prepare for the big event, my fellow officers suggested we devise a strategy. To convey a command of execution in the absence of my voice I’d have to exaggerate a shoulder-drop. That means everybody will have to focus now on my shoulder, regardless of where they are in the field. Now keep in mind that there’s a proper sequence of commands here. We have to carefully follow the script and my “subjects” need to execute each command as if they were hearing my voice.

Days passed and the moment of truth came.  

It was a bright, beautiful morning, and the wind was cold. Green grass covered the open field and the 150 of us stood there ready. Spectators came, my mom was in the crowd. Early that morning, I asked God to give me this one opportunity, one moment to have my voice and He can take it away again if He must. I was desperate. At that time it was the only thing that mattered to me.

So there I was in the open about to give out my very first command. Everybody was anxious. I inhaled deeply for the very first time in my life, savoring the air coming to my lungs. I looked to my left, mustered all strength, summoned all courage and faith. As my head moved from left to right I uttered the first command. Alas! There was a voice! Strong and powerful!

I can vividly remember my first officer grinning from ear to ear as he marched back to his post just behind my back. Both of us couldn’t believe what just happened. The rest of the officers standing behind me were murmuring words of joy and appreciation. We did a good job that day. We didn’t bag all the awards but we definitely felt victorious.  

Aftermath

My voice didn’t sound ever the same since that morning. What used to be a thin crispy tone is now raspy. But I think the key takeaway from this experience is recognizing the treasure behind our gifts and abilities. What we oftentimes ignore are things that other people would die for. Besides that recognition, we deliberately have to choose to use our gifts for good, that way, the blessing doesn’t stop with us.  

The kind of legacy we leave is up to us. The key to leaving something good lies in our daily choices. For you and I, may that choice be:

Giving the best version of ourselves to the world for however long or short we get to stay.

That Kind..

Have you helped someone and felt like it has not been appreciated at all? Maybe you gifted somebody with something you’ve saved up for a long time, but the gift wasn’t valued as much as you have hoped for.

Many times we feel frustrated when our gifts are taken for granted. At the same time, when someone takes advantage of us, we feel annoyed.

Let’s look at what usually motivates people to give.

Giving makes us feel better.

We give because we feel sorry for someone. 

We give because we are superheroes with superpowers (false)!

We have plenty of resources (so we think).

We like to help, like genuinely.

These reasons are not bad but notice the inherent limitations. Consider these.

Our should-be goal is to make the other person feel better, not that we feel better.

We should aim to empower those we help so they can stand up and fend for themselves-not train them to be beggars.

We’re not superheroes. We can’t be everything to everyone. 

Some things do run out. So it matters where we place those limited resources.

Asking someone “How can I help” makes our help more useful and effective. 

One classic example of the latter was when I had a chance encounter with a stranger.

Me: “Good morning”!

Guy: “Oh, hi!”

Me: “Do you have a change for 100 bucks”?  

Guy: “Sorry, no. But how much change do you need”?

Me: “Just 5 bucks for these copies”.

Guy: “ I got it. I’ll pay for you”.

Me: (stunned) “Wait! Really”?

Guy: “Yeah, don’t worry about it” (He said smiling).

Me: “Thank you!”  

At that time I can’t think of any way to pay him back so I just said, “God bless you!” The guy just smiled and walked away.

Driving back to work, I recalled all those occasions in the past when help came along at the perfect time and turned out to be exactly what I needed.

  1. A brother who advised me to put off an investment until I have enough money for it.
  2. A spiritual mentor who prayed for me every night for 12 weeks so I could finish a catholic program.
  3. An ex-boss who found me a head hunter who in turn helped me land a new job.
  4. A friend showed me options I could consider whenever I decide to come home for good.

When help or gift perfectly fits a need you get to appreciate it more, and when it empowers you, all the better.

Next time ask, “How can I help you best?”. Act on the ASK and equip this person to walk, without a crutch.