space on the shelf

*This is a re-post from almost a year ago. But in reading through the thoughts gathered in the #bloginstead experiment started by Melinda Johnson, they seemed pertinent. I would add a few things now if I were re-writing it, but I will leave it alone for the moment.

Like many folks, I have spent the better part of my life trying to figure out exactly where I fit in the big picture. I dearly want to have a positive impact on my family and community but have often felt that my efforts were insignificant at best and even futile on my bad days.

As I have just ended my fifth decade I am becoming more deliberate in my interactions with myself and others. I have found over and over again that when I act in ways contrary to who I really am I am not only hurting myself, I actually have the possibility of damaging those closest to me. Nobody wants to be the recipient of someone “helping” them out of a sheer sense of duty. True giving should liberate both the giver and the receiver. That is not to say that giving or helping is always easy, but love MUST be the impetus and unless we are in the process of recovering our own inner health we are in danger of acting from compulsion rather than compassion.

I will likely never start a world movement or political campaign. But I very much desire to love and connect with the folks in my community in transformative and healing ways. In the beautiful book Birds, Art, Life, by Kyo Maclear, the author recounts a conversation she had with the musician who inspired her love of birds. Upon asking him what his aspirations were in terms of leaving behind a musical legacy he offered a most profound response.

He likened influential people and their bodies of work to books on a bookshelf. Some people require shelves and shelves of space for their lives while others might just have one or two books. His desire, he said honestly, was just to have a small place on a shelf.

And that seems just about right to me.

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