The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on earth. – Wilfred Grenfell
My next door neighbor really pissed me off last week.
Thursday is trash collection day. The trucks come early so the garbage cans and recycling bins are placed on the curbs the night before. But last Wednesday night the neighborhood had a hard time containing the trash before the trucks could arrive. The low pressure system that was parked in the upper Midwest brought strong winds to Kansas.
By Thursday morning debris littered the lawns. Before leaving for work, I gathered my toppled trash cans and stood them upright. I collected the get-away items and placed them either in the trash can or recycling bin. Surveying the moon-lit yard, I was satisfied I had found what needed to be picked up before leaving for the office.
An unexpected gift
When I arrived home later that evening, I had a package waiting for me. It was carefully wrapped and put in the center of the front stoop. I noticed the wrapper right away. It was the familiar blue and white lettering of my drycleaner.
At first glance, I thought it was a lost shirt being returned. As I got closer, I noticed there were several things wrapped inside. An early Holiday gift for my business, I thought.
It wasn’t the type of gift I was expecting.
The package contained trash and recyclable items that got free the night before. A bacon box, some unopened junk mail and an empty bag of pretzels were placed in the used plastic garment bag. After seeing what was inside, my curiosity quickly turned to anger.
My neighbor had done this before. And he just did it again.
An unfortunate circumstance
Nature selected my part of the world last Wednesday. I’m sure nobody in the neighborhood asked for the 60+ mile-per-hour wind gusts. It just happened like most circumstances of nature. Powerless to stop the wind, my neighbors and I did our best to mitigate the damage afterward – except for one.
Rather than seeing the trash as an unfortunate side effect from the night before, my neighbor probably saw the situation as an intrusion or perhaps an inconvenience.
The time and energy it took him to gather the wind-blown items from his yard and then wrap them took more time than just disposing of the garbage. Last Thursday he made the choice to limit his world to a population of one.
A world of many, beautiful people
The human condition requires us to live beyond our skin. We are called to help, serve and protect all who walk with us. There are no exceptions or opt-outs. We either choose to help, or we don’t.
When we see someone struggle, we are called to lend a hand. When we see a friend in need, we are called to give what we can. When a loved one is down, we are called to help them back up.
Because the world isn’t about me all the time. It’s about us, too.
There’s a difference between being duped and being mindful. Trust your common sense. When there is a need to help, reach beyond your own skin and touch the life of another. When you do, you are both helped and the human condition is improved a little more.
The winds are calmer now and my anger has mellowed since last week. The unexpected gift reminded me that sometimes the best way we can live beyond our skin is by showing a little forgiveness and some compassion – even when it is inconvenient.
Are you living beyond your skin?
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