Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The right way to spread yourself thin

Even though we all do it, it's a bad idea to try to do to many things in too short a time, which is how most people define spreading ourselves thin.  Of course if your goal is exhaustion and steadily declining quality of execution it's a great plan, but most of us are after something else and get ourselves into that mess by accident.

There is a good way to spread yourself thin though, and that's what I'm writing about today.

We all know somebody who amazes us for the wonderful things they do for other people.  It might be as simple as a younger person who befriends older ones and is actually there for them at times when it counts - driving them home from the hospital after a fall on the pavement, or keeping in touch with regular phone calls and visits.  It might be somebody who organizes activities that bring joy to the people who attend them.  It might be the friend who always knows what to do in a crisis, large or small, and does it.

Those people spread themselves thin by sharing their energy in a way that renews it, and expands to touch not only the people they know, but the people those people know, too.  Helping people feels good.  And the act of doing it gives rise to the enthusiasm needed to do more of it.

Everybody is different though, and sometimes people are too shy or too stretched already to do those things.  Some of us just don't have the skill or experience to see what needs to be done in an already busy environment.  But there are still ways we can give a little of what makes us special.

We can share the fruits of the labour that feeds our strength.

If you read Hugs, you probably make things, and so you will know exactly what I am talking about.  We make things and we give them away.  Lots of Hugs readers make chemo caps - they donate them to hospitals or give them to loved ones in treatment for a truly scary disease.   Others make socks or scarves or shawls or mittens for people we love.  We hope the warmth or the softness or the colour will make them happy, or comfortable, or remind them of how we feel about them.

We put a little of ourselves into those things and then send them on their way.

But we do more than that, because handmade things, if they're cared for, last longer than we do.  And that means the good we did in our life can go on doing good even after we're gone.

Isn't that a powerful idea?  Normally that kind of cascade effect is reserved for people who committed their talents to films so great you want to see them all - Jimmy Stewart's spring to mind - or to the kind of paper that gets reprinted, like Jane Austen's has.  Crafty people don't really put themselves into that category.

And yet I have a friend who still marvels over the skating socks her grandmother knit her, to the point that she told me about them and probably other friends, too.  That woman, who made socks for all her many grandchildren every year, several pairs each no less - she is alive to me, and I hope to you now as well.  Her work has spread a little piece of her beyond the borders of her own time.

This is something I think of often as I spin and weave and knit more accessories than I can possibly use.  I know part of what drives me is the need not to have wasted materials I bought before I realized I didn't have space to store them, and to turn them into something useful.  But another part is the realization that those accessories will end up with somebody else, and make my own life a little bigger than the part of it that I occupy.  I only have the one life.  I want to do the most good with it that I can, and making things that will outlast me - things that will go on holding love into the next generation and the one beyond that - is the most natural way I can think of to do it.

Earlier in the week I talked about how many human beings wish they were better than they believe themselves to be.  This is a pretty wonderful way to remind ourselves of our value, don't you think?

Hope you can come back tomorrow, and I'll see you then!


mom said...

What a beautiful reminder! Thank you!! You may like this quote: "The afterglow of the 'pleasurable' activity (hanging out with friends, or watching a movie, or eating a hot fudge sundae) paled in comparison with the effects of a kind action. When our philanthropic acts were spontaneous and called upon personal strengths, the whole day went better."
-Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman

Mary Keenan said...

love that quote - thanks mom!