Most New Year’s resolutions – I’m gonna lose weight, I’m gonna get in shape, I’m gonna travel more – have one theme in common. They’re about us. Us improving. Us looking better. Us upgrading the unique creature that is, well, us.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But this year, at a time when people seem to be on edge around the world, here’s a novel idea: make your resolution about helping somebody else.
I’ve seen the rewards this mindset can offer. As the founder and operator of an orphanage in Port Au Prince, Haiti, I oversee 52 children, children who have come from the most horrific of circumstances, being abandoned in the woods, being left to die at malnutrition clinics, losing their parents to earthquakes and hurricanes.
From the moment we take them into our orphanage, there is no thought about what they can do for us. Only what we can do for them. This thought process, month after month, year after year, eventually becomes permanent. And I find, each time I go to Haiti – which is every four weeks – that I not only slip into this mindset easily, but that I feel best about myself when I do.
My old college professor Morrie Schwartz – the “Morrie” of the book “Tuesdays With Morrie” – once said to me “giving is living.” He told me this while dying from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was floored when he said it, because, I thought, why would a dying man say “giving” was the thing that made him feel most alive?
But it was. “Taking” held no interest for Morrie. His life force was amplified most when he was able to help someone through a problem, comfort someone in a time of need, offer a word of wisdom to a confused former student.
Giving is living. I’ve been told that some of you have read my new book “Finding Chika”, which details the story of a 5 year-old Haitian orphan whom my wife and I took in after the child was diagnosed with an incurable illness – and who, in two short years, through her humor, courage and very loud singing, made us a family in a way we never imagined.
It was the greatest example of the giving/living paradigm. Every day little Chika needed something from us. And every day, we felt so alive in helping to provide it.
It changed my approach to resolutions. Oh, sure, I’ll still want to lose weight, and get in better shape. But, truth be told, those are desires year round. Setting a new goal for the new year can be so rewarding if we start with saying “This year, I want to help…” There are so many places and