I had a very interesting discussion with my son today, and along the twisting path, I made this observation: People either help others because they expect something back, or … because there’s a larger picture at play. Let me explain.
I’ve run into a number of people who are so protective of their time and relationships that they make the investment only if they see a clear and immediate benefit. I give you some advice, and you return the favor fairly quickly through payment, recommendations to others, or some other form of service.
This is based upon a view of the world as limited and finite. If I give you something, then that’s something that I’ve given up. Therefore, to replace my lost, I need something from you in return. It’s only fair, right?
The problem is that only physical goods behave that way. If I give you my apple, I don’t have it any more. But if I give you my love, (in my world view) I haven’t lost any love, and in fact I’ve gained some. Or at least I’ve gained the virtue of generosity and compassion. If I give you my support, I haven’t lost my capacity to support others.
But here’s the rub: In our culture, we view time as a critical resource, to be spent wisely or foolishly. The problem is that it’s not an accurate view. Time expires (at an amazingly consistent rate!) whether we want it to, but it also arrives (at exactly the same rate!) as well. All you really have any control over is where you choose to place your effort and attention, but only in the here and now.
And that’s a very malleable thing. You can apply lots of attention or a little, as well as effort.
Let’s bring it back to investing in helping others. In an abundant universe, where time is always arriving and most of the important resources (like love, relationships and support) can be replicated at little cost, it makes sense to give these abundant resources away freely. By doing so, you’ve increased the odds that others will respond in kind and help you.
Call it karma, call it your divine mission on earth, whatever. The fact is that we all need help from each other, so giving help is the oil that keeps things moving.