Ever have people question WHY you’re doing something you’re doing?
I often get quizzical “raised eyebrow” looks when I tell friends and family that I’m helping a family in Kenya buy a house. They know I’m not a homeowner myself right now. And I can see the gears turning in their brains. “Why?” Why spend time and energy raising money to help someone ELSE get ahead? To make it possible for someone else to own a home?
There’s an anomaly in human nature that we’re hardwired to help another “get up” rather than “get ahead.” We’ll help others if we think they have less than we do, and possibly if we think it will put us on an even footing. If we think our generous spirit will move them ahead of us, however, we’re wired to think that’s a whole different ball game.
We’re more likely to give someone else a free meal if it costs the same or less than what we would have paid for our meal. We’re less likely to buy someone a steak dinner if we ourselves are eating at the burger shop, for example.
Now, you may think this isn’t true. So, I offer two simple actions for identifying and transforming this desire:
1: Pay attention the next time you’re driving in traffic and someone wants to merge into your lane. If they’re alongside you, or possibly the slightest bit ahead of you, observe your unconscious reaction. Almost universally, we will accelerateso they can merge in BEHIND us. We instinctively speed up so they can’t get ahead of us, rather than slowing down so they can merge in front of us. (Or, since you’ve read this, you may make a subconscious choice to let them in ahead of you. The key being the awareness that you’re “letting them.”)
The same phenomenon happens at the grocery store, or any place people converge where they’ll be required to stand in line. It’s a fascinating little quirk we have.
A generation ago, motivational giant Zig Zigler said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Zigler was pointing out that by letting others get ahead we move forward faster. Going against the ego’s natural grain allows our greater good to occur.
2: Think about adopting a slightly different perspective the next time you’re guided to help another “get up.” What we’re really doing is helping them “rise up.” Not because they’re down and out, or less than – as our ego would like to convince us – but because they’re our brothers, our equals. Because what they contribute to the world is every bit as valuable as what I or you do, even if we can’t see it.
Helping people rise up to where they have a foundation on which they can then create greater positive change in their lives and in the lives of others transcends “charity.” It is an empowering action with no equal.
As Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers without Borders, says, “Sometimes you have to give a man a fish before you can teach him to fish.”
In the nearly 15 years I’ve worked with this family in Kenya, I’ve noticed repeatedly how they help others rise up. And how they continue to rise up themselves, again and again, always sharing whatever they have at the moment.
But what about me?
Do I want to be a homeowner again at some point? Absolutely. AND I know that renting versus owning doesn’t significantly alter the landscape of my life. It doesn’t greatly impact what I can or cannot accomplish.
For this family in Kenya, however, homeownership is a gamechanger. No chance of a landlord raising the rent, allowing the house to disintegrate, or selling the property out from under them and not returning the balance of the annual rent they were required to pay in advance.
Homeownership creates stability beyond anything they’ve known since Pastor George was called to become a minister, left his secure middle-management corporate job two decades ago, and consequently said goodbye to the company house and company car.
Owning affords the family the ability to put down roots, to build their homestead farm, to nurture the cows and chickens that provide milk and meat for the family to eat and to sell, to plant a garden that will thrive and not need to be uprooted mid-season.
Taking all those worries off their plate they can now concentrate on their work in the world. On spreading New Thought teachings and progressive Christian beliefs to empower others to rise up. On educating children so they too can get ahead and create positive change in their country, which in turn creates positive change in our world.