Favor Labor: When helping hurts
I have a friend who was looking out for me. Knowing I had lost my job, he invited me to help him do some demo work on a construction project he was starting. "If anything," he said, "you'd get to knock the hell out of a wall or two to get out your frustrations." It was exactly what I needed, because I was still pretty peeved by my recent employment status.
I showed up early, got to work, and wasted no time busting down walls, tearing up floors and disposing all my anger and hatred into the dumpster out at the curb. With each load I dumped, I whispered a quiet goodbye to my past.
My friend thanked me for helping him and of course wanted to pay me for the job. I found it hard to justify accepting the money, because I felt like he did me a real favor by letting me pretend those walls were my old boss. But he insisted and paid me what he'd pay a day laborer. I took the cash and went home. After a long, hot shower I retreated and sat alone in the quiet of my basement office where I began to feel the emotional as well as the physical pain of the day wash over me.
I closed my eyes and could feel my shoulders tighten into big unwanted knots. I shook each time my rubbery arms I lifted the glass of water to my mouth. And whenever I thought of my old job, my lower back began to twist and pinch me most painfully. My body was clearly telling me I still needed to do more work on myself. I had to get in shape physically while working out my bitterness emotionally. Holding on to it only made me more twisted. Letting go would free the pain.
I can only imagine my friend went home that night with simular pain. His more physical than anything else. I am sure he slept well that night knowing he had done something nice for someone in need. The lesson I learned, something that is so well known but often overlooked, is that when we help people it actually makes us feel better about ourselves.
There's been research on the rewards of volunteering and helping others that is worth reading. The Los Angeles Times published a great article on the wonderful mental and physical health benefits of doing good for others.
Here is an excerpt, found at http://articles.latimes.com/2009/aug/10/health/he-themd10
Behaving altruistically not only feels good, a growing body of research suggests, it actually improves a person's physical and psychological health. "One of the best things we can do for our health is to learn to be more caring and compassionate," says Stephen Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in New York.
The effects of altruistic behavior on mental health have been fairly well documented. "Happiness is a byproduct of living generously," Post says.
A study published last year in the journal Science examined the relationship between philanthropy and well-being. Researchers analyzed the spending patterns of more than 600 men and women and questioned them about their general happiness. Money used to pay bills or buy things for themselves was considered "personal spending"; gifts for others and donations to charities were categorized as "pro-social spending." Personal spending was found to be unrelated to happiness, whereas pro-social spending was directly correlated to it.
Volunteering has also been shown to have a positive effect on people's mental state, particularly as they age. Volunteerism serves as a way to keep older adults active in the community and prevents them from becoming socially isolated. It's thought that volunteerism also enhances older adults' sense of belonging, increases their sense of purpose and improves their perception of their own self-competence.
I challenge you to find a quiet spot to sit and listen to what your mind and body are saying to you. What God is calling you to for yourself and for others. The labor favor my friend did for me, not only helped me out financially, but it also brought me closer to what
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”