A Month of Empathy

We are engulfed in a culture so obsessed with the self. Here, we seek to make money so we can buy the latest technological device or keep up with the latest fashion. We spend money to go to the gym and look good. We spend a great deal of money to go to school with the hopes that we can have a great job one day, so we can spend that money on ourselves, and perhaps our future family. We go to classes, give a little effort, with the hope that the teacher will give us good grades so we can get a diploma and get a great job. We watch the clock tick while the professor lectures, waiting for the opportunity to watch our favorite TV show, take a nap, or go eat.We wait for the weekend so we can finally have fun, stay up late, and forget about everything that’s happened throughout the week.  We complain about rising taxes, talk about political issues, gossip, and sometimes we even talk about social problems. I sometimes think about social issues, and imagine one day when I’ll be living a comfortable life without worrying about making the grades and finding a job. I’ll be sitting behind a desk, or standing in front of a bunch of kids just like me, or conducting research that will one day help someone. Or maybe I’ll be playing a sweet gig with a great band. I don’t know where I’ll be, but sometimes I get comfort from thinking that one day, I’ll do something good for this world.

I know that’s not a bad thing. I should put a great effort into securing a successful career and being able to provide for my future family.

But I have a question:

What if I spent a month where I put the needs of others in front of my own? It seems impossible with so many concerns to weigh me down. But is it really that hard? What about the weekends? Why must I spend so much time watching movies, playing, or just goofing off on Facebook?

What if I dedicate my free time to making other peoples’ lives better?

So, this will lead to a little experiment. It won’t be very scientific, since I haven’t made controls and I won’t have data to provide a look at what happens before and after. But here’s the plan:

1. Look for service organizations and volunteer for the weekends, or during the week if necessary. If there’s no service opportunities with those organizations on the weekend, I’ll make up for the homework time lost on weekends.

2. Visit the elderly. There are people at rest homes that could use a visit. I’m going to try to visit with a few people each week. Maybe I’ll put together some music and play a little show, then talk.

3. Find a way to help someone close by. This may be the greatest challenge, since it sometimes seems to be the most difficult to see the needs of someone so close.

I’ll think of more ways to help out. The point is, I’m going to spend February just looking for ways to make the world a better place. Then I will document the changes I see in me and the changes I may see in others. I’ll look at how my grades have been influenced and how much stress I feel throughout the week.

I believe that by dedicating myself to others, I will find greater happiness and greater fulfillment. Maybe I’ll get better grades. Maybe I’ll make some new friends. Maybe my perspective on life will change. Maybe I’ll grow up a little bit and be able to understand others. Perhaps I will realize that I really can make a difference. But I hope through it all I will become a greater individual with a greater capacity to love and to serve.

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