Humanity and Empathy
Humanity is used to describe the human race, but it is also associated with the word humane, which encompasses kindness, compassion, and mercy. Your self-esteem is tied directly to your humanity and how you treat other people. It has been written and spoken by religious leaders, philosophers, educators, therapists, and countless others that those who do not love and respect themselves cannot love or respect others.
Service and humanity begin with empathy. Empathy is when you put yourself in the lives of others. It is when you truly understand their pain, joy, fears, and actions on an internal level. Empathy at its highest level is when you are involved enough to know what other people need and how you can help them with their needs. Empathy is when you forego judgment for understanding, when you move beyond reacting and learn to take action, and when you help find the answers instead of blaming. Most of the time, people with the greatest empathy are those who know how to listen to what is spoken and to what is not spoken.
To become a giving person, it will be important for you to cultivate your sense of empathy. Giving is most appreciated when you give what is truly needed, not what you think is needed. Understanding what is truly needed can come from learning to listen with an empathetic ear.
By learning to listen more carefully, you can begin to hear the needs of humanity. You can begin to understand more fully how your hands can be the hands that can change a human life.
An Investment in Human History
There is an old saying that goes, “Teachers touch the future. They never know where their influence ends.” This is true not just for “formal” teachers in the school systems, but for you as well. As a person who gives of yourself, you never know where your influence ends, or if it ever does.
When you give of yourself, you can think of it as an investment in the future. You can look at it as leaving a piece of yourself with humanity. You can think of it as your living monument when you are gone. By giving to one person — just one other person — you could have a profound influence upon that person and upon history.
Visualize for a moment that you helped John Doe, who lives in a homeless shelter, by allowing him to rake the leaves in your front yard for $10. John Doe, whom you have never met before, takes the $10 and goes to the Salvation Army Store and buys a pair of pants, a shirt, and a newer pair of shoes.
By buying this outfit, John Doe is able to approach the manager of a local landscaping business to ask for employment. The manager agrees to hire him on a trial basis. After one month, John Doe is hired full-time with benefits. John Doe, grateful for a second chance, moves out of the shelter, rents a room that he found listed in the paper, saves his money, and decides that because he got a second chance, he wants to help someone else.
After six months, he has saved over $400. He approaches the local community college and gives the money to a student fund to purchase textbooks for struggling college students. Because of John Doe, two students are able to purchase their books to work on their degrees, one in social work and the other in education. Five years later, these two students are employed. One is a special-education teacher in high school; the other works as a marriage and family specialist at the local Department of Human Services. Their daily actions help the lives of hundreds each year.
When volunteering for any organization or project, think about the new golden rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Volunteers should never try to force their help on anyone nor should they try to “rescue” anyone.
Just think, because some leaves fell on your lawn and you chose to spend $10 on a “wanderer,” the course of human history changed for thousands of people. Because you took a chance and gave just a little, you played a part in this miracle called the circle of life.
Altruism and Giving
Altruism and giving both deal with selflessness. Altruism means having a genuine concern, compassion, and kindness toward humanity, genuinely caring for the welfare of your fellow citizens. Those who have deep altruistic qualities find ways to help their fellow citizens on any level; they do not need a formal outlet such as volunteering to be able to do so.
Altruism does not concern itself with reward, status, money, or power. Altruism is about doing good deeds and helping others simply for the sake of doing it. It comes from a total abandonment of ego and remuneration. It is rooted in a desire to move humanity forward.
By discovering your own altruistic goals and by serving others, you are, in essence, helping yourself. The more you give, the better you feel. Those who give to others live longer and healthier lives, and have a stronger immune system.
You may say to yourself, “I'm just not a very altruistic person.” This may be true, but altruism can be learned. It is innate in some people, but others have to work at it. One way to work at becoming more altruistic is to actually be more altruistic. By doing more altruistic work, you can become “hooked” and, in turn, continue to do and give more.
Study after study on altruism, giving, and volunteerism suggests that the people who are more involved in these activities report an increased quality of life for themselves. In giving, the gifts are returned tenfold.