This year, people will make and swiftly break their New Year’s resolutions. It’s hardly surprising given that most of these pledges usually feature dieting. Last year, when I too swore that I would commit to the battle of the bulge, I made a critical error and failed before I started. Hey, it’s not my fault that Applebee’s was running a 2 for $20 campaign. I was a full hour away from my last meal when I noticed their enticing sign, so it’s only natural that I gobbled up both platters like a ravenous dog! Even so, my failing in the girth war mostly affected myself (and perhaps the eyes of those who would now be forced to view the amorphous mass encircling my waistline). Maybe that’s the problem with resolutions; all too often they’re a “me” thing.
But what if they weren’t? What if, just this once, people made their resolutions with the benefit of others in mind? Would such selflessness create a snowball effect of goodwill that would feed upon itself until everyone was helping everyone? Not being a sage or soothsayer, I can’t answer this with authority, but a hunch tells me that such a paradigm shift in behavior could well become a game-changer. At the very least, it would take us away from ourselves, and our ever-increasing waistlines.
Allow me to address a common fallacy. Many of us believe that we will be happiest if riches come our way (have you checked out a lottery line lately?). But studies show that this is largely NOT true. In fact, the happiest members of society seem to be those who live simply and who give freely of themselves. If you’ve ever helped someone, you already know the warm, fuzzy feeling that accompanied the deed. Now, imagine doing this regularly. It feels nice to be nice, wouldn’t you agree?
I have a close friend who lives this selfless lifestyle. He’s a lead-guitarist/ music teacher who defies typical Rock & Roll stereotypes. While Joe has as much “scratch” in the kitty as the next guy, he doesn’t fancy expensive automobiles, posh digs or even shiny new Stratocaster guitars. He cares about people. A typical day will find him celebrating a musical “breakthrough” with one of his guitar students and afterwards lifting the spirits of some elderly folks at a nursing home. Please understand that Joe is nowhere near retirement age. His friends often wonder what he gets out of these prolonged visits with people many decades his senior. If you ask Joe, he’ll tell you that the arrangement is indeed lopsided.
“You know, I actually feel kind of guilty,” explains Joe with a hint of shame in his voice. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing this as much for me as I am for them. When I arrive at the nursing home and these older folks smile or suddenly perk up, there’s no denying that it makes me feel great. I don’t guess you can put a price tag on that kind of fulfillment.”
It’s obvious that people can receive as much from giving as they do from receiving. Perhaps more. Just ask Joe. And giving of oneself like this is far nobler than lusting after material goods, or trimming a few inches off of our waistlines. So, why not resolve to help someone? You may discover something “nice” about yourself in the process. But even if you don’t, there’s still a bonus here. Without those silly weight loss resolutions, you’re free to gorge on that tasty “twofer” at Applebee’s. Happy New Year!
— Jeff Bahr