Recently, I posted twice about “random acts of kindness” that I had the honor of initiating. The slew of responses encouraged me to reflect and write about what it takes to be a vessel for compassionate action. Because here’s what I believe: we all want to have the capacity to act in compassion and to do so is not some elusive talented available only to an elite few. But here’s what I also believe: we don’t live lives in which we are readily available for these opportunities. And so, while it isn’t rocket science, there is an art to being available – there is a formula – underlying states-of-being that must pre-exist to make you available for action in compassion. Freedom to Care To have the freedom to care requires that you are unencumbered by your own cares. I had a very distinct experience one weekend in which I was so entrenched in my own burdens that I was completely unavailable to the world around me. I was like a zombie, going through the motions of the day, getting from place to place, but not taking anything in. I was jolted to the extremity of this when a group of youth from my church was passionately attempting to garner my attention by franticly waving to me from across the platform. They were unsuccessful, as I was in my daze, and I only awoke to them by the time it was too late. In that moment, I became painfully aware of the cost of being a slave to your emotions. If you find yourself in this state, you have two options, of which you can practice one or both, whatever helps you triumph. 1) Hire a life coach. I can’t stress enough the importance of a life coach to my life. By hiring someone who is a professional at solving life problems and working through the maze that is our brains sometimes, you gain clarity and power in how to approach difficulties and you keep these skills forever! You never lose the power that you gain over your life. 2) Surrender it to God Even in our most powerful moments, we are never in complete control. And so there is always room for surrender. And truly surrendering requires surrendering the inquiring, worrying, and hand-wringing over it as well. Once you’ve done the above work enough, you will find yourself virtually worry-free and able to walk down the street 110% present and available for who or what needs your attention. Freedom to Express Is it more common that we are saying what’s on our minds or is it rather the case that we are biting our tongues or minding our own business? We bite our tongues because we don’t want to say something that will tick-off someone and we mind our own business because we don’t want to make ourselves too vulnerable to the opinions and possibly even rejection of others. But what if we expressed ourselves without angering others and without fear or rejection? And what if, as a result of that, we created genuine conversation, exchange of views, and possibly even laughter and learning? To accomplish expressing ourselves without angering, however, requires never making people wrong. It’s a radical idea, but to approach someone’s actions with simply a question or conversation rather than judgement will incite thinking rather than anger. And to express ourselves without fear of rejection requires that you set aside your ego and privately acknowledge the possibility of a “no” but go in anyway for the possibility of a “yes.” I do a lot of talking. I almost never shut up. I just love connecting with people and expressing myself. When I see someone on the train doing something worth commenting on, I say something. When I am in the elevator with folks, I make conversation. When I think someone needs help, I offer it. And even if someone is talking loud on their phones or playing their music loud on the train, I ask them if it’s possible for them to turn it down or even ask them why they’re using a speaker for their music on a quiet train. I am the worst at minding my own business. Because if I did, I’d feel stifled. And I don’t want to live my life stifled. And I’m glad I don’t. Because I’ve met people, had great exchanges, and been inspired and done inspiring just by honoring the expression of me. Time Affluence This is a great term used by Ariana Huffington in her book Thrive. I love it because it’s got a great ring to it and also because it’s so true. When we are rushed and harried, we are overwhelmed and stressed. And when we are overwhelmed and stressed, we are selfish and curt. On a normal day, I have the time to be aware of what’s going on around me and will stop to pick something up that someone dropped and will slow down to walk with the old lady down the steps. But if I’m in a rush, I can’t be bothered and nearly knock over the old lady and everyone just becomes an obstacle on my way to my all-important appointment in my selfish life. And it’s a terrible feeling. So if you find yourself in this state more times than not, start to build more time into your commute. Throw in an extra 10 minutes just so you can walk instead of run and if you’re really feeling ballsy, throw in an extra 20 minutes so you can say you have time affluence. And with that extra buffer, you will be a more pleasant and loving person, actually and finally fully available to do all of the above: care, express yourself, and be a contribution to the world! Reason To If you don’t feel compelled to change or contribute to the world around you, then you are leading a lukewarm, apathetic way of life. By taking the time to clarify your purpose, you will find the purpose in being a part of the world around you. If you don’t have a relationship with God, then that is another pathway to learning your purpose. For me, my purpose is a conglomeration of creative expression, loving God, and loving people. And so for me, every interaction is purposeful and a potential possibility for loving people, and in doing so, expressing God’s love to them. I encourage you, again, to take the time to do this work: get in prayer about your purpose. Do Franklin Covey’s Mission Statement Developer tool to develop a mission/ purpose statement for yourself. And head to your local church and/ or read the Purpose-Driven Life, the number one NYTimes best-selling book of all time by Rick Warren that clarifies your life purpose for you. Knowledge of How to Help In a very practical way, it’s important to know how to help as well. If all we offer people are empty encouraging words and hugs, that is a great start, but is not an end in itself. For me, personally, volunteering with the homeless has equipped me with tips, resources, and more understanding so that I feel more confident helping a homeless person in my own time. If you have a heart to help in a certain area, you will only add value to your help by learning more, partnering with like-minded people and causes, etc. So don’t let a lack of knowledge stop you from being a contribution. Keep learning, keep growing, and change that so that you’ll be ready for the next opportunity. Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about all that. In closing, I’ll leave you with the idea that it’s always possible to do something and so the choice lies with you. To be able to say yes is a powerful thing that we’re all capable of. I’m grateful to be living in an available state because I came from very different place and I can appreciate the stark difference. Believe me, it’s worth the effort to get to this place. Amen!