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Is the act of helping people enough to heal a broken society? Indeed, is patching people up and sending them back into the world really healing? The answer is surprisingly complicated.

The initial response from most people is “yes“, helping is a good thing. Indeed, we human beings often need the help of others to get us through tough times.

As the English poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island”. We need each other. In fact, I’ve often noticed that when we look into the eyes of others we see our own reflection. I guess that goes some way to explaining why so many people tell me that helping others makes them feel good. On that score they freely admit to helping for reasons of self-interest.

The only problem with that is the help becomes an emotional transaction.

Could we do more?

I reckon we miss something big in the emotional transaction of helping others. You see, I am fascinated by how we humans tend to lose ourselves in the ‘now’. All of our senses become consumed by one moment in time.

This can happen when we are earnestly talking with someone, listening to their words or staring into their eyes; the to-ing and fro-ing of communications is instant, timeless and ‘now’.

In those moments we seem to vanish into the ‘now’. When we are in those moments there seems to be no pain or suffering. Our minds tend to open to something bigger; something healing and free. It’s something we miss if helping is simply transactional.

The more we have the less we can give

I have also noticed that the fewer possessions I own, the more profound the experience of helping can be. You might think it strange, but I’ve learn this from the homeless and the refugees I’ve known.

It is people who have nothing to give who miraculously manage to give you the most important things. Indeed, I’ve learned that the more I hold onto something, the less I can give to others.

Age-old wisdom unheeded

The spiritual gurus, swamis, priests and mystics have been saying all these things for thousands of years. Yet for some reason people didn’t want to listen.

The gurus, swamis, priests and mystics all pointed to a higher and greater reality, but the people preferred a different reality filled with more Earthly pleasures.

Healing our broken society

Alas, our Earthly reality brings on isolation and loneliness; division and wars; dictators and abusers; mistrust and manipulation. So it’s hardly surprising society feels broken. Societal anxiety and depression are rife; and more people are lonelier than ever.

There’s a pervasive sense of emptiness and a yearning for it to be filled. However, that won’t happen through helping alone. I think that bigger, spiritual dimension needs to be discovered in order for society to start healing.

I don’t think society can fix itself otherwise. Without a spiritual dimension to the core of life we are like the mythological “Jason and the Argonauts“; sailing around and heading for nowhere.

Connection becomes a transformative activator

Helping is good, but without the spiritual connection to our fellow human beings it’s surely not enough.

That’s not to belittle the countless acts of kindness happening everywhere every day. Indeed the goodwill is there, but kindness without connection is somewhat shallow.

I think we need to begin searching for greater connection; call it a spiritual connection if you will, to enable people and society to heal. Indeed, it is the spiritual connection that becomes the transformative activator which enables healing to occur. Only in that connection can we truly understand others and in doing so heal our own souls.

This form of spiritual connection can also be called loving compassion. Here too, the gurus and swamis have lead the way, telling is it comes from a bottomless well.

When we embrace the spiritual connection – the loving compassion – we begin to affect real healing in society. What’s more, we don’t feel so alone and isolated.

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5 Comments

  1. Mary Kovacs Woodfield 13 March 2024 at 11:05 - Reply

    Thank you Bill I agree and also feel the same way.I am one of the invisible volunteer in your restaurant. I have been there on and off since 2008. Also I don’t have much but I still send money to UNICEF twice a year, and refugees. Nice to read your story.

  2. Roger 13 March 2024 at 14:26 - Reply

    Thanks Bill. Lovely piece.

    I agree that ” we need to begin searching for greater connection; call it a spiritual connection if you will, to enable people and society to heal…”.

    So where or how, do we begin? And who is ‘we’? Our volunteers, our providers of medical, social services and admin support services onsite, our van drivers? As a casual van driver I’m fortunate to often observe our Ashfield staff connecting with our guests. I sense there’s a strong connection, maybe spiritual, happening there. And as a former volunteer I also witnessed the humanity of volunteers engaging with our guests during breakfast and lunch. The connection achieved by many is uplifting.

    Your challenge is of course to achieve a greater, spiritual, connection. I’m not sure what the starting point is, but you have access to wonderful human resources at Exodus. Maybe we start with tapping into and eventually utilising their perspectives, their experiences, their insights?

    I noticed the strategic plan in graphic form on the wall in the main building, If it’s not there already, maybe ‘defining and manifesting a greater spiritual connection’ should be added?

  3. Megan 16 March 2024 at 20:54 - Reply

    ‘No act of kindness however small is ever wasted’-Aesop fables. Nature is reciprocal and so naturally are we- there is no greater joy than in repaying debts and thanking those who have truly helped us. Aristotle said that that ‘the greatest virtues to learn are those that help others’. Psychologists have focused a lot on ’empowering others’, I think they need to find the confidence again to help.

  4. Megan 16 March 2024 at 23:22 - Reply

    My sister used to say ‘use what you’ve got to uplift others- and you will find you have all you need’- it gives confidence to the helper and peace to the silences. As Jesus said ‘to him that has- more shall be given’- it applies to a lot more than just money.

  5. Megan 22 March 2024 at 21:48 - Reply

    A retired primary school teacher giving a sermon at my church when I was young said that the main lesson she learned over many years of teaching was that she had to be ‘content to sow the seed’-she said as a teacher you don’t always have the privilege of seeing your students grow up or how you have influenced them- but yeah to be content. xo

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