Doing More Good Independent of Money or Circumstance

So often these days I see beaming smiles and energetic pride in people who are out to do good in the world. With resolve and purpose, they step forth with dreams and ideals to “make the world a better place”. Such idealism is beautiful, necessary, and even crucial in this war-torn world-weary era. But so often it seems the egos of those who wish to do good are so strong and solid, so present that they broadcast themselves more than their mission. That focus on themselves and on how much they are contributing often overshadows the deep, fundamental work that is crying to be realised.

[ photo: by engin akyurt ]

When ideals are faced with the push and pull of reality, and when dreams are shattered by the bickering, defensiveness, and rigidity of people, who keeps the world going? Who is resilient, flexible, and strong enough to keep the world from falling apart? Perhaps it is the ordinary people who “glow” and “allow flowers to bloom” who are the net, the foundation upon which the rest of us stand.

The ones who are “unseen, unheard, yet truly there” just might be the saviours we most rely on without even realizing it. For example, the grandmother who day in and day out cooks special meals for her hypo-allergic granddaughter; the postman who knocks on the door at 8 pm, filled with apologies as he hands over a package his co-worker neglected to deliver; the nurse who sits for hours at the bedside of a frightened, confused old man; the people on the cleaning crew who scrub toilets and wash hair-filled filthy sinks day after day; the single mother who somehow holds the family together despite her meagre salary or stays up all night with her colicky child and then faces a full day of work; the absent father who calls his kids lovingly every night; the below-average student who never misses a day of school; the average family that manages to stay intact and in communication through the tumultuous teenage years. The list goes on and on.

Security and togetherness

The simple things, the ordinary things done by people you and I both know, maybe that is what holds the world together and gives it a sense of cohesiveness and security.

One such ordinary person living an ordinary life is Takuma Sato. He owns and runs a postage-stamp size Indian restaurant in the town where I live. Having his own restaurant was a dream of his for a long time and was in the making for many years. From the time he was small, Takuma loved baking. 

Even as a kid, he made cakes and pies, cookies and sweets. He also liked making meals for his family and trying out new dishes on his friends. He always thought about new recipes and how to make them more healthful – tofu instead of eggs in his puddings, for example, and pure ingredients with no preservatives at all.

Takuma knew he needed more experience and money before he could realise his dream of opening his own restaurant. But rather than go to a conventional cooking school, he headed off to India to learn how to make savoury curries first-hand. He did not confine himself to one place, but travelled about, gleaning secrets and skills that he could later adapt to the UK palate. He ended up staying four years in India and came home with confidence in his future profession.

However, he still needed money. So, he got a job as a construction worker. That entailed hard work, but the reward of good pay. He drove huge cranes and road equipment, hauled heavy loads, precariously balanced on crossbeams, and poured cement. All the while he was thinking about cream puffs and chocolate mousse or a new recipe for vegetable curry!

As a construction worker, Takuma dressed to fit the role. In his time off he wore jeans with chains hanging out of the pockets and heavy leather boots. But even so, his gentle nature seeped through his tough outer image.

Having worked for a small time and amassing some capital he approached his local bank to secure a loan on a property, he opened a small, harmonious restaurant, called Aladin, where he now makes delicious, delicate curries. The place is simple, warm and friendly. It truly reflects the refinement and values of its chef and owner. In fact, when you go there, it feels as if you are entering Takuma’s home because of the peaceful space he has created there.

Borrowing money is something I asked Takuma about, he told me he had visited payday lenders and loan sharks during his years of running the business. Although he did inform me that he had repaid the initial loan he used to set his business up. Businesses do not normally operate with the help of short term loans repaid after a month, see this article. But Takuma’s story is not one that has always run smooth.

With initial wobbly finances overcome, over the years this teeny restaurant has been the place where simple, often unplanned things happen: friends have started to meet there on a weekly basis; someone gives a planned or spontaneous concert; a stranger who shyly slips in is welcomed by all; guests bring photos or paintings to decorate the walls or books for others to read. 

Takuma’s smile, food, and quiet presence make many magical things happen naturally and graciously, day after day, after ordinary day. So, it is easy to see that Takuma is “just” an ordinary man, like so many others. around whom flowers almost inconspicuously, yet ceaselessly, bloom.

Doing more good

Give Your Talents

Are you a talented artist? Why not give the gift of a drawing? I have a friend who draws portraits of other people’s animals (usually dogs). These make a precious keepsake, especially years later when the dog is no longer here. If you don’t want to make such a large time investment, you could do something simple like painting a scene on a rock to be placed outside the home as a decoration.

Give Your Skills

Do you have a neighbour with a fallen tree in her yard or a shed that is in need of repair? Rather than giving her money or another plate of cookies, why not help her with the tasks she needs done? If you have a chain saw and can dispose of the tree for her in a half days’ time, your gift will mean much more to her than any money or other gift. Best of all, she will likely remember the gift that you gave her, rather than forget it weeks after it is given as we are all inclined to do.

Reciprocal Gifts

Perhaps the best gift of all is when you and a neighbour can agree to each gives one another a gift of your talents or skills. For instance, if you live in a snowy locale, maybe your neighbour, who has a snowplough attached to his truck, will agree to plough your driveway for free after it snows. 

This will only take him about 10 minutes or so. In return, if he doesn’t like to cook or is a bachelor, perhaps you could take him over a meal once a week. You don’t have to do much extra work; just double the recipe you are making and give him half.

If you live in a sub-division or another area where you are familiar with the neighbours, perhaps you could have a little party and each share what your skills or talents are. Then, someone who is in need of your particular skill could choose your “gift” as their holiday present.

This also works great for families. Most young family’s welcome family babysitters, so that is certainly a skill you could “gift” to a relative. Maybe in return, they will “gift” you something you need, such as handyman skills to fix your sink that won’t stop dripping.
Take a leaf out of Takuma’s book and don’t let a little hard work stop you.

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