At 3am mybrain wasstill racing.I’d spent all night– well, all year really – feeling useless and wondering how I could use my skills, time or resources to do more good in this messed-up world. I should give Owen some money, my restless brain decided.
Owen Chisvo is a beader in my neighbourhood, and such a lovely guy that I once wrote about him for a magazine. He was so proud of the article that he pinned it to the tree he sits under. My words brought new customers to find him, and I glowed with pleasure. But nobody is buying beaded ornaments now. When I pressed some money into Owen’s hand, he said he could buy food and pay his rent in Hillbrow. ‘I’ve been touched by God,’ he said.
As an atheist that made me smile, but I felt as blessed as Owen. Doing good for someone else was wonderful. I felt like a small god.
Like many people, I often feel underused and helpless, as though I’m just sitting here having an existential crisis while others are changing the world. I calmed down when I realised that writing about people or things worth supporting is powerful in itself. So I wrote about Owen again on social media, hoping my words would inspire people to support their own local craftspeople.
Whatever your talent is, there’s probably a way you can use it to benefit others – maybe not to change the world, but to make someone else’s world a little more comfortable.
Where pleasure meets purpose
Paul Dolan is the author of two excellent books on happiness: Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life and Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. His view is that happiness is all about experiences rather than possessions: we get a hit of joy not only from the experience itself but also from the stories we tell afterwards. We need to do things to feel better, he says. Any action we take is always on a scale somewhere between pleasure and purpose, and each of us needs to find the sweet spot between the two that works for us. Happy people, he says, are people who have found the perfect balance between fun and fulfilment. And the best route to fulfilment? ‘Helping other people is the big one.’
A friend of mine becomes a ‘small god’ by cooking huge stews for the homeless once a week, and so feeds her soul through feeding others.
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AFLOAT in France
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