When I was a graduate student entering my final year, I had a clinical internship at a VA and medical school. My father’s advice was to “Speak to everybody from the janitor to the president. You never know who you’re gonna need or who might need you”. So, as I stood on the periphery of my professional life as a clinical psychologist, I set about putting into action this timeless seemingly elementary advice.
Growing up in the south, speaking to others was expected and commonplace. But my father expanded my understanding of its power. Speaking builds support networks. When we “speak to” each, we acknowledge each other’s humanity. We build compassion and connection. We recognize that we are resources for each other.
It’s a vision of reciprocity. Interdependence creates an invisible energy web between us. Bishop Desmond Tutu explains it in the concept of Ubuntu. He says, “I need you to be you so that I can be my best me”.
I think it’s quite magical. Our behavior, the way we move about in the world, our interactions with others all create a source of power that each of us can use to be our best and build a better world.
Here are three ways that you can put the energy of reciprocity to work for your body, mind & spirit.
Be kind to others – I know you’ve heard it before. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The more I study the connection between physics and spirituality, the more I realize there’s more to this than simply being polite.
Some would say we’re similar to magnets. We draw things to us. Funny thing is that we attract what we send out. So while the kindness we extend to another may not be returned by that person, we can count on some kindness coming our way.
At the same time, kindness can change someone’s day or even his or her life. Simple things like speaking, saying thank you, or holding a door for someone can uplift someone’s spirit. The energy boost they feel may create an immeasurable domino effect of good.
So put on your best smile and share it from your heart. Make someone’s day.
Practice gratitude – Get your mind focused on the gifts in your life. If you don’t have a regular gratitude, there are a few resources at Life In 4-Part Harmony under Reciprocity. A regular gratitude practice is associated with improved emotional, mental and physical well-being. Yes. Go straight to it. Pass go and collect your money.
If you like to journal, keep a gratitude journal. If you like to meditate, close your eyes a few times a day and simply visualize all the things you’re thankful for. Really let yourself feel gratitude. As the feeling grows, so will your sense of peace.
Even at times when it seems life is crazy and not making much sense, look for the gift. What can you be thankful for in your experience? Maybe a traffic jam slowed you down just long enough to drive up to you meeting and get a perfect parking spot.
Alice Walker once said, helped are those who find something to admire… even the darkest dungeon will offer gifts. Open your presents and be thankful for each one.
Let your life outlive you – I hope that all this talk about being kind and helping others has reminded you that you can change the world for the better. When I give books to children, I always write, “The world is a better place because you are here”.
Many traditions teach that we are all here to build a better world. Ask yourself, “How would I like the world to be better?” Would you like to eliminate hunger or poverty? Increase access to education? Make people smile? Remind people of the natural beauty that will warm their hearts everyday?
Perhaps there are some like-minded people who share your interest. You may be just the person they’re looking for to move a project foward. Or maybe you want to start your own project. The good you do will last for all eternity. It will keep right on giving and growing.
The Yoruba sacred text says we need a sustained effort to create the good condition and let not any good at all be lost. Share your good and make the world better.
Here’s your Reciprocity Power Playlist:
Be kind to others.
Let your life outlive you.
© Sandra Y. Lewis