We all know that great piece of wisdom about helping others:
“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man how to fish and he eats for a lifetime”
This has always been one of my favorite philosophies and then a few weeks ago my wife and I attended a talk by Geshe Michael Roach, author of the Diamond Cutter, who introduced us to a clever twist on this old wisdom.
“Teach a man how to teach others to fish and many people can eat for a lifetime.”
I didn’t have to wait long before getting an opportunity to put this into practice. Just this week I bumped into an old friend who I haven’t spoken to in several years. He was glowing which was great to see because the last time we spoke he was going through a painful marriage break-up. I recall him being shattered by a separation that he hadn’t seen coming and didn’t want. It was hard to see a confident guy who had lost his way.
We chatted and bit and he shared that since then he had established a new career and was rocking it and more importantly, he had found his soulmate.
He made it a point to tell me that when we last talked he was at his lowest point and that I had given him advice which he always remembered. I had told him to hang in there and try to stay strong because no matter how sad and heartbroken he felt, the pain would eventually pass and he would wind up in a better place. I told him that he would even become grateful that it all happened. He said he always thought about that and it came true.
I knew that things would work out for him because they worked out for me when I was going through a painful separation of my own and I had also witnessed this countless times in other people who experienced hardships. I know pain exists in our lives to make us appreciate the place it takes us to. Sometimes we give our pain meaning and sometimes the meaning just becomes obvious on its own, but it always passes. This insight was originally shared with me by my mother when I needed a pick me up. Now I am not only grateful for my experience, because it made me stronger, but as tough as it was, I would choose to go through it all over again if I knew that’s what it takes to get to where I am now.
“Just as every party eventually ends, so too every toothache passes. Everything passes.”
So back to the real premise of this post. As my friend told me his story of re-finding his mojo, I smiled and enjoyed his new happiness. Then I asked him one small favor. I asked him that now he knows that this is how life works, would he please share this insight with someone else who comes to him in a time of trouble and ask them also to pass it on when they are ready. It gives me a sense that you can create armies of helpful people even through even the smallest acts of helping, sharing and teaching.
Next time you help someone, ask them to repay you by giving someone else a helping hand and then to pass along the goodwill skill.