The greatest gifts are those which are given without expectation of anything in return.
Did you know, it’s actually impossible to add or subtract darkness? Take a dark room: we can only add or remove light, which may in turn indirectly make a room more or less dark. This distinction is important. What it means is that the whole cleansing of dark energy we like to see people romanticize…it’s bunk. We can remove the marks left behind by negativity; we can paint over scars and scratches, clean stains, mend tears, but the actual removal of “dark energy” by trying to grab a hold of it and rip it out is impossible, just as it is to make a room “less dark.”
A colleague in the fashion industry recently confided to me her woes about the treatment of women (and men) in that industry. She admitted that she had to, at times, tell some of her clients that they were “too fat” because of industry standards when—by any other worldly standards—that person would be seen as experiencing borderline malnutrition. However, she felt unable to escape the matter, and that her office was full of “dark spirits” because of that.
Someone cuts us off on the highway. A friend is going through a rough breakup. A coworker seems absolutely determined to spread his/her bad day around until everyone is miserable. Someone said something on social media and it got under our skin.
It would seem a lot of negative energy gets tossed around, doesn’t it?
NPR recently published an article on mankind’s place in the food chain. Their referenced study determined a species’s place in the food chain by its trophic level—in layman’s terms, how much energy is required to make said species’ food. Residing at one end of this trophic food chain are plants and other organisms that get their energy directly from the Sun. These organisms take that energy, then herbivores and omnivores in turn take that energy from them, and then carnivores take that energy from the herbivores, omnivores and lesser carnivores, and so on. Such is life. However, the point is, if we follow that chain backwards, it all comes back to the Sun’s radiation. Somewhere inside of you—indeed, inside all living creatures on this planet—is a battery, powered by converted solar energy.
As of yet, we cannot prove that the Sun is “raising” us the way we might raise livestock or crops. So far as we can tell, all evidence suggests that the Sun gives this energy freely, without asking anything in return. What I wonder is, can humans emulate this process? By giving off “light,” can we remove some of that darkness in the world?
Saying that the way to combat darkness is by adding light as the Sun does, without expectation of results, comes across as heady and philosophical, so let’s leave the metaphor for practicality; how exactly do we accomplish this?
This is what I call “The Art of Little Blessings.”
Little blessings are actions that require little to no upkeep. However, make no mistake, they are sill actions.
An easy example of a little blessing is a small bowl of candy. We see these bowls set out many places with foot traffic: offices, banks—virtually any place where one might stay and have a discussion. However, what if you don’t work in a place with foot traffic? When was the last time you changed the decorations in your house? Burned a little incense? Cleaned? No, I mean actually cleaned.
Some of my family keep a bird feeder in winter. An easy cure for winter blues is birdsong, and assuming there are non-migratory avian friends in the local climate, we might be surprised at how many visitors one can see with simply a little caged cube of birdseed. Considering what we’ve already learned about our food being converted sunlight, this is very close to literally what is offered—a gift of light for others.
The point isn’t to see our gifts accepted; like seed for the birds, little blessings are released and allowed to go without expectation of result. Acceptance, ignorance, these are not to be concerned over. Our only commitment is to keep our blessings stocked should they ever fall empty. These are the ways we spice up our space, make others feel welcome, not because it’s good for business, but because it’s just good.
Still, how is a bowl of candy supposed to make the person who was told that, at 100 lbs, they’re “too fat” to model feel any better?
There’s another way to give little blessings—without spending any money. It won’t settle debts, usher in world peace or repair a broken relationship, but recognizing what we say in greetings, farewells and other autopilot discourse has the capacity to have profound impact on someone’s hour/day/week/life.
Consider: how often do we throw out, “Hey, how’re you?” and respond with, “Pretty good” or some variation thereof?
What if, let’s say, after a recent snow or rainfall—we wished someone to, “Drive safely” instead? What would be different if we gifted our loved ones the thought of, “Have a good day at work/school/etc.” before they went off to their Sisyphean Endeavor of the Day? What would happen if we changed our script? What do we risk by getting more involved?
It requires a second look at our discourse, a touch of concern or care; a rereading of the instruments where normally we might rely on autopilot. Moreover, it requires focusing the light to the person in question; after all, what’s “drive safe” but “have a good one” on a sunny day? This is not change for the sake of change—it’s taking that extra second to filter through what we know (or don’t know) about that person, that person right in front of us. As opposed to the bowl of bits of sunshine, this is more of…a spotlight.
It’s not always easy to take that one second. Sometimes even when we have the second, it can be perhaps more difficult to want to shine that light on someone (think of the car that cuts you off, or the venomous coworker). Sometimes, even when we do shine that light, it still won’t sink in. That guy or girl in the car won’t know we’re hoping they get to wherever they’re going safely. However, if we’re not expecting anything in return, then if our gift goes ignored, we’re not out anything we weren’t ready to lose in the first place!
The Sun doesn’t wait for or look for a reason to shine; it simply burns—not just for our loved ones, but the people who serve us coffee, the people who get us our mail on time, the people who sit in traffic.
If nothing else, ask: who are we to do anything less?
This article was originally published on Kevin’s blog, and is being reprinted with permission from the author.