Recently, I had the opportunity to help run an event. I am not a person who likes to be “in charge.” Nor am I talented at “delegating.” But I learned a few lessons from the experience, the most important of which (no big surprise) is to feel and express gratitude.
In my former pre-yogic life I often complained about people who let me down. Folks didn’t return my phone calls, came late to meetings, or took advantage of my generosity (i.e. I’d baby-sit their kids but they wouldn’t return the favor). Everywhere I looked I saw people who were selfish, unwilling to commit, not considerate of others. I loved to moan about how unfair the universe was to put these people in my path. If I ran the world, I said to myself, things would be a helluva lot different.
My perspective has changed in the past few years, and now, confronted with the same sorts of problems, I have an entirely different approach. Helping to run this grand event (I had several other organizers on my team, fortunately!) was interesting. I noticed that some participants did not want to be involved in helping out. Instead of being angry and resentful about that, I told myself that they had other things on their mind right now. Some people actually promised to show up and do certain things at certain times, but then didn’t make it. Instead of being disappointed with these people I told myself that they are still learning. Some committed to a few things, and did them well; but they weren’t willing to take on too much. Instead of comparing myself and my commitment to theirs, I decided to gratefully accept what they could offer.
Then, of course, there were the people who stepped up to the plate without my asking. They carted food in, carried musical instruments, helped others who didn’t know where to put their stuff, cleaned up spilled drinks, made tea, went without lunch (and were willing to go without dinner). Instead of focusing on those who didn’t deliver or show up I decided to turn my attention to these wonderful angels who were there just when I needed them. They didn’t expect anything in return; all I had to do was say “thank you” or “you are doing an amazing job” and they absolutely glowed with happiness. I began to think how lucky these people are, and instead of feeling annoyed with those who weren’t pitching in, I began to feel a little sad that they were missing an opportunity to give.
I also realized that I had one day--not so very long ago--been in their shoes. There were times in my life (especially when my kids were little) when I would run the other way if I even heard the word “volunteer.” I was way too busy to make cupcakes for a school party, head up the PTO, or be a Cub Scout den mother. Many times I did just a token bit and then fled. I was overwhelmed by many responsibilities, and giving more of myself seemed impossible. This memory of my former self gave me more compassion for those who weren't willing to donate their time or effort. One day, I believe, things will change for them.
Anyway, the event was a huge success, but the best part of it all for me as an “organizer” was saying thank you to the people who helped. It was also a wonderful learning experience for me—not so much about running the event—but in the important practice of focusing on the gifts that are offered, no matter how small, instead of ruminating about what is lacking. I came away wondering why we ever spend our time thinking about what isn’t when there is so much that is.