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July 28, 2009

What are you contributing?

The world is full of old adages, musings and cliches that I invariably mull over in my head for days on end. Today I'm stuck on the expression, "You get out of life what you put into it."

I know I have heard this expression all of my life, though it may have taken a slightly different form. Maybe, "You are what you eat," or "What comes around goes around," but the essence of the saying always stayed the same. It was probably about 15 years ago, though, when I was listening to an audio tape series called "Lead The Field" by Earl Nightingale, that the reality of this statement started weighing heavily on my mind.

Nightingale told the story of a woman who was lonely after moving to a new part of the country. The woman complained that the people in this area were cold and unfriendly, and she hadn't made any friends with whom she really connected. The woman's husband was puzzled; he couldn't understand why she described the town that way, when he had found it to be quite the opposite. What they found, after examining their very divergent perspectives on the area, was that he was out talking to people and feeding the community with his upbeat spirit, while she had essentially closed herself off from the world.

Over the years I've thought about this story many times. I've thought about how when I am philanthropic, good things seem to flow back to me. And how after inviting guests into our home, we are often flooded with invitations to join others (sometimes to the point that you think of the old Morton Salt commercial...."when it rains it pours!"). Or after spending one-on-one time with one of my children, they'll come and plunk themselves down in my office just to say hello.

After years of witnessing the truth behind the adage, "You get out of life what you put into it," I am sitting here scratching my head and wondering how I ever get caught up in a spiral of selfishness -- but inevitably I do. And I know I am not alone in that because I see it every day -- people who think first about themselves, then about others.

So, after all this rambling that's really not leading up to any big revelation -- let me ask you --

Do you agree that "You get out of life what you put into it?"

What contributions to this life are you most proud of?

What are the non-negotiables when it comes to contributing (i.e. I may not be big on opening my house for a party, but you can always count on me to welcome a new family to the neighborhood.)

I would love it if you would post your thoughts in the comments section of my blog so that we could create some lively discussion around the idea. How about some good conversation...'Round the Kitchen Table?


Side Note: If you have never read or listened to anything by Earl Nightingale, I strongly recommend that you do. My aunt introduced my husband and I to him many years ago (through the audio tapes), and I have never regretted the time spent listening -- in fact, 'til this day, I'm truly grateful for it. Whether you are trying to be more successful in business, your relationships, or just life in general -- he has some wonderful lessons to share.

5 comments:

Chow and Chatter said...

great post i try to be a good mom and sit and play with my baby i totally agree though lol

Becca said...

The first thing I thought about was how I hated the people at my daughter's montessori school. I felt like an outsider. I still resent the other parents there. After reading this post & thinking about it; you're right. I really didn't put anything into developing relationships there. I just accepted being an outsider. I think it was/is easier for me to blame them rather than take the risk (of rejection) that comes with reaching out to others.
I'm thankful for this post because in 2 weeks we are moving to a different state. This serves as a good reminder to me that this "new start" will be what I decide to make of it.

Lauren said...

Becca, I've had exactly the same experience with "school moms." My daughter started school in a very close-knit community -- 90% of the students lived within walking distance -- we did not. I remember going to the first PTA meeting and feeling like a total outsider because they all knew each other so well, and I lived on the outskirts of town (not that either was good or bad...it was just different). I never connected to that group of mothers -- but looking back, I don't know how hard I tried. I that particular instance, I don't think that they intentionally shut me out -- it was just a result of overwhelming familiarity with each other. The lesson learned for me there was that when you ARE the outsider (like I was) you almost need to go above and beyond -- unless there is a super-sensitive insider who pulls up a chair at the table for you.

There was a time when I felt guilty about not doing more for that organization...but in hindsight I don't feel that way. I did what I could for them, and contributed much more of myself to other organizations to which I felt called. I think we contribute the most when we contribute from the heart -- and not out of a sense of obligation.

Good luck with your move! What part of the world will you be moving to?

In Search of Light said...

I think sometimes this appears to be very true. Certainly, if you put nothing in, you are not likely to get anything out, unless of course its that $400 MIllion Nigerian Lottery that you mysteriously won (LOL) However, I've seen numerous incidents where life seems to unjustly reward those who, through my mortal eyes, are apparently undeserving. And what of the adage that "No good deed goes unpunished." How many of us have had our good intentions and best efforts thrown back in our faces.

If we accept adage gospel, but life gives us nothing back, do we rightously quit putting in or do we lose our selfworth because because life has determined that our efforts were not worthy of reward. If we give of ourselves solely for the benefit of others than it becomes better to give than to receive and the giving becomes its own reward and we are richly blessed.

In the end, I think it doesn't matter, if we keep trying to do the next right thing and have faith; the outcome will be what Providence intends for us even if it bears out no rational ryhme or reason to our mortal minds.

Erica said...

I really enjoy reading your post!!!

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