Living Beyond Our Skin | The BridgeMaker

Living Beyond Your Skin

By on Nov 25, 2016

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.

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 might have seen 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.

Calmer winds

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?
How are you changing the world, a little at a time? Please share in Comments below. Reading this by email? Please visit the blog to share – just click here.

The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

  • Hi Alex.

    For me, living beyond my skin was when I realized that I would never be skinny in my life. Being a big woman was just part of myself.
    People used to bully me on this.

    The moment I realized that it was me, and embraced it, everything became peaceful for me. So in a way I like to thank you for your blogs. Because they did contribute to that.

  • I love the “lens” concept Michelle. I know I see the world differently if I’m happy compared to being upset. Our emotions truly filer our reality. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  • Hi Alex,

    What I appreciate most about this post is that you showed your ‘humanness’ – and reminded us that we get to “choose” how we’ll respond in each situation. Yeah, anger is certainly a natural reaction…and once we calm down and check-in with our true spirits, we must live beyond our skin, like you said. A beautiful and important reminder.

    I have to remind myself daily that we each view the world with a different ‘lens’, based on our beliefs and perspectives. Who knows what lens your neighbor is looking through (?)…but my guess is that there isn’t a whole lot of peace there. So, he could probably use that forgiveness and compassion you mentioned!

    Thanks for sharing…so that we may all learn.

  • Your heartfelt wisdom Diana is spot on. I agree that living with a generous spirit leads to less anxiety and more happiness. Thank you very much for sharing your love.

    Karen, I just hope he doesn’t send me a bill for the idea. 🙂

  • Hi Alex.

    Oh the toil all that pent up anger must have been taking on your poor neighbor’s soul. At least you provided a safe outlet. Maybe he knew that, somehow, through your calming vibes, that you would not be angry for long and that you would end in love for him.

    Until the angry neighbors of the world can actively seek and give peace in love, we are here to cushion their fall.

    The flip side? He gave you some great content, and we, your readers get the benefit. So, tell your neighbor I said “Thank You”.