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Mindset Monday: “We are at Our Best When We Are Serving Others”

It’s so easy these days, at least for me and those I am speaking to, to get focused on all that is wrong and fall into despair. And there is so much wrong—racial and social injustice, people who won’t socially distance or wear masks putting the rest of us at risk for our lives, climate chaos, the politics of fear and divisiveness….It’s no wonder we are collectively down. But as I wrote about a couple weeks ago, said so beautifully by Nora Bateson and Mamphela Ramphela, we have a choice to respond to what is happening coldly (out of fear) or warmly (from love). When we choose the warm response, we are able to access all our creativity and innovative thinking to think our way out of the messes we’re in. 

That’s why I love to come across and share thoughts that inspire hope, to generate in us a warm response. Here is one that has been making the rounds of social media recently, perhaps for that very reason. It inspires me every time I read it. Even if you’ve seen it before, take a look and see if it uplifts you as well. It reminds us that from time out of time, we have cared for one another, that we live in a field of compassion, that the impulse to serve is our greatest human asset. 

It’s from a book on palliative medicine by Dr. Ira Byock, entitled The Best Care Possible: “Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fish hooks or clay pots or grinding stones. But no, Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken then healed. Mead explained, that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. A broken femur that has healed is proof that someone has taken time to stay with the person who has fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. ‘Helping someone through difficulty is where civilization starts’ said Mead. We are at our best when we serve others.”

Written by MJ Ryan

Photo by Margarida Afonso

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