Awakening to a Greater Good
by Lisa Gotto
January 22, 2021
During this monumental time in our collective history, how are you feeling? With events and circumstances shifting rapidly, even accomplished self-soothers, are feeling tried and tested.
It’s easy in these moments to go inward and internalize these situations; it’s an intuitive reaction we use to care for ourselves and to cope. But what if we were to push past this initial reaction and look outside ourselves to the greater need we are experiencing right now?
Tapping into a proactive rather than a reactive mindset can help us break up that inner noise and bring us to a more productive place where our heads can quiet and hearts can lighten. It is in this space we can focus on others for the greater good.
As mindful, wise women, we understand that this could very well prove to be a monumental time for action and affirmation, as well—a new year rich in mission and meaning—if we wish it to be.
What Does This All Mean?
Admittedly, finding meaning in a world that makes little sense is the challenge many of us face now. Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, explained in his influential book how affixing meaning to even the most heinous events can not only stave off apathy, but can help us survive emotionally and even strengthen our resolve.
Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, created a mindset that allowed him to look toward the future with equanimity, not fear or anxiety. His will enabled him to stay focused on a future that transcended the concentration camp; and he was able to view his suffering as an opportunity to become a better person—a phenomenal approach and a deeply inspirational narrative.
Once we have pushed past the world’s noise and our own, we can seek to attach purpose to practice. We accomplish this when we answer the call to service, whether this is something that comes naturally to us, or something we perhaps have to tease out of that place within us that just wishes things would get better. No need to fret if this is not your automatic response. Our culture simply does not have a service ethos “baked in” as it were, like some of our global counterparts. Hence the famous reminder our nation received in 1961 from President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Where To Start
As with many challenges in life, taking that first step is usually the hardest; because in that step, we must forge a direction. If you need some time for reflection and self-examination, by all means, take it. That process can start simply by asking yourself the question, “What kind of world do I wish to create now?”
And the term “world” in this sense is not indicative of taking a “got the world on our shoulders” approach, rather the relatable world we would like to create in this new year for ourselves and those we love.
As women at midlife, this may be the starring role we have been primed to play. Using those caregiver bones and the blessing of the extra years that many of us will be given as life expectancies rise, we have been afforded a blessing of opportunities, as well.
Consider It All, Big and Small…
Whether you can choose to embark on an individual path to purpose or form a collective to address a greater good, be assured help is needed in ways great and small. The impact of what you choose to participate in now can not only help to sustain you during these pivotal midlife years, it can help to sustain others for years to come. And it is through this type of experiential outreach that we gain the most perspective on our own lives.
Everyday Outreach – Right now, today, you can make a difference. While it’s difficult to reach out in the traditional ways we are used to, there are smaller but still impactful gestures we can make that can create a better today for someone who really needs it. For example, when you must be out for your necessary shopping, take time to make eye contact with our essential workers. Inquire genuinely as to how they’re doing today, tell them you appreciate their coming to work.
Get creative with how you make your monetary donations. If you have $100 set aside for donations per month, you can consider spreading the love by going on an essential worker spree and randomly handing out $5 coffee gift cards to 20 people. This small gesture may be the one thing that was good about someone’s day
Mental health is a growing issue as the pandemic endures. Seek out the socially isolated, especially those in nursing homes and others who have been living alone throughout the pandemic and cheer them with a Valentine’s Day card next month. Enclose a personal note, so they know someone is thinking about them.
Community Level – There is so much to be done here, not only in a big picture sense, but there is immediate need in our communities for volunteers of all types. Every city and town has a mechanism for community activism and involvement, and resources for these opportunities are generally listed on a municipality’s website.
Right now, and as we transition to a post COVID-19 world, volunteers are going to be needed at all levels to help ramp up vaccination efforts. Many seniors are currently struggling with getting signed up at all for the vaccine. Those aged 75 and over may not possess the technical skills or even the computers necessary to get signed up. In the Bronx, New York a program called COVID Vaccine Angels which is staffed by volunteers, is helping connect seniors with the vital vaccine they need. Connect with your local agency on aging to see how you can help with the vaccination effort in your area.
Just this week, in observance and recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday, the Biden Administration through its Presidential Inaugural Committee created a comprehensive outreach platform to connect people at the local level who wish to help with what needs to get done in their particular area. Going forward we can expect more programs, like this Day of Service initiative, to help with everything from food drives, to mask distribution, and educational opportunities through the President’s Build Back Better initiative.
On the community level, women are also especially needed when it comes to the supportive roles we can play in one another’s lives. Providing for the increased needs of women who have been affected by domestic abuse, displacement and job loss will be an important area of concern going forward.
Global Outreach - Finally, when we consider our sweet spot for purpose-driven service, we must also take into account the world that we knew before COVID. That world was already a place of great need with societal inequalities, misguided or ineffectual leadership, climate issues and disparities in the availability of healthcare. Those problems will only be greater now.
If these seem like insurmountable, mountain-moving issues, it is wise to remember that when we were first confronted with the pandemic, some of the world’s most effective leaders proved to be women. Skillfully assessing and addressing need seemed to be their DNA. If you feel it may be in yours, as well, think again about that vision of the world that you would like to create. Your timing couldn’t be better. The needs are there. Our country is now poised to move forward with many new leaders—many more of them, women. Will you be there?
In closing, we’ll take another page from Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl felt that every person had something unique to accomplish in the world – and that he, errr, she—is responsible for making it happen.
Looking for an opportunity to serve in your local community? Click here to be matched with service opportunities in your area now.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
- Mahatma Gandhi