Last night I spent the evening helping out with my charity, the Desi Geestman Foundation, as we hosted a party at City of Hope hospital for the pediatric patients and their families. It was a wonderful evening, I saw so many of the families we’ve worked with before, met lots of new people, and stood by in wonder at the joy I saw around me. Every patient and each of their siblings, receives pajamas, slippers, toys, books, a visit with Santa, a yummy dinner, fun and games.
Aside from the families, one of the things I enjoy most is seeing the transformation in attitudes of the people who have come to volunteer. By far the largest percentage of these is a group called, “Assisteens.” This is a very active civic group of, yep you guessed it, teenagers! In a world filled with kids who sometimes have little opportunity to care about much of anything other than material things, it is beyond wonderful to see these thoughtful, outgoing young men and women serving dinners, decorating, playing with the kids, handing out gifts, and generally participating in something bigger and more important than going to the mall, or excelling at a video game.
And as I watch all of them giving, and my own daughter fearlessly charming a sick child with her special brand of humor and fun, my cynicism melts away. Yes, I think, the world is full of hope and good.
These teens won’t all turn out to be movie stars or millionaires, but they will be something better, something stronger than that. They will be people who can look back at their lives and smile. I believe that’s because they will know the value of being a part of something larger than yourself. It’s called community, the word hidden in there is commune, definition—Sharing of thoughts and feelings with others, especially on a spiritual level. Not religious, mind you, but spiritual. My girls have no association with a church or religion, but they are among the most moral and giving people I know.
The trick here, of course, is to turn the attention away from the petty problems and tiny focus of our own lives and be of service to someone else. I can’t even explain it, but I know that it feels so right, that this is something we are meant to do, something that is missing in too much of our modern life. This world where everyone is trying to get ahead and make a million and be envied by others is a lonely one. I’m not saying I’m not guilty of those things too, mind you, hey, I’ve got a house payment, but my attitude has changed over the years. And so have I.
Bottom line, I’m happier now. I divide my time and my efforts much more fluidly than I once did, and guess what? The flow is far more gentle, I find myself moving freely through the mid-stream of life instead of snagging on the branches at the edge of the river. When I think about what I have, and how I live, I realize that it is enough. I don’t need more jewelry, or a fancier car, or a bigger house. It’s lovely to have those things, of course, if they are important to you, but ultimately, I believe that you will find they don’t make you any fuller or more important than you truly are inside.
Because everyone is already potentially magnificent. Every one of those teenagers left there last night with a new point of view, and a bigger, more shining soul.
Look at that, I already got my first Christmas gift, probably the best one I’ll receive.
Wishing you all the peace and joy of a Community Holiday Season.
Shari, December 8, 2012