March 5, 2012 –
Have you ever given something away with no obligation?
That’s powerful stuff, and not always easy to do.
People may question your motives. Others may question your mind.
They need to look no further than your heart.
The Power of Giving
It was the early ’80s and I had some time off between jobs. I decided to go visit a friend in Los Angeles to help him with a sailboat he owned.
I had just returned from an extended stay in the Virgin Islands, where I had used my teaching career to support my sailing habit.
I call it a habit because it was something I loved to do but couldn’t afford to buy into. But I found a workaround and did it anyway, every day that I could.
My solution? I volunteered on boats needing crew, and over time earned a rep as a trusty man with the sheets or the tiller. I was a sail bum, and it got me through several years of fun and adventure until I returned to the States to move on with my life.
So off I went to Los Angeles on a whim and stayed with my friend while we worked on his old wooden sailboat in drydock. Along with all of the other folks doing the same thing to their boats.
A community of like-minded sail bums inhabited San Pedro, a mecca for recreational water sports with a deep-water harbor fronting the Channel Islands. It was sunny and warm in SoCal, and I was young and carefree. I was in the moment.
Standing by our project in the boatyard, off in the distance you could see the Hughes Glomar Explorer, an infamous deep-sea trawler that had salvaged sections of a Russian submarine from the Pacific Ocean in 1974, which caused all sorts of international upheaval. All officially denied, of course, by the CIA. Yeah, right!
And close by in a hangar, Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” was stored, a famous wooden seaplane so big it could not be safely controlled by the current technology of the time. A plane as big as its creator’s ego, and nearly as uncontrollable.
For boat fans, this San Pedro boatyard was a big bit of heaven. Twelve-meter boats in for service work. Fishing trawlers getting repairs done. Historic craft all around, and some with classified stories to boot. Very cool!
I didn’t work on my friend’s boat for money. I did it for friendship, helping someone out who was sort of stuck in his job while the boat languished. We were determined to restore, refit, and relaunch in four weeks.
The Power of Receiving
Now that I look back on it, I received some benefit as well.
I learned a lot about Folkboats, a type of Norwegian sailboat that has a dedicated fan base among wooden boats freaks. I learned to fix things better, a skill that I am very proud to own. I learned to sharpen my chisels every day. Every day.
But I learned more about friendship, although at the time I didn’t know what I was learning there because I was in the moment. I’m a better friend now because of my time spent with Steve, and I’ve since applied those lessons to my other friendships.
Focus on Helping
When we reach out to others in an act of charity, we perform it best when there is no thought about ourselves. Those who do it this way are able to bring focus to the task. Focus on helping provides greater benefit to the receiver, but it also helps the giver as well.
Writing a blog is such an act if the sharing is provided freely and with no strings attached. If done in this manner, the effect from it can be very powerful. There are no limits to good intentions when delivered without conditions.
However, the benefactor may also receive a benefit beyond the simple pleasure of helping someone else. The act of writing a piece that freely helps someone else’s problem or fulfills a need is a Good Samaritan act, an action that will not soon be forgotten.
The law of unintended consequences has a hand in this game, and the cards are not revealed until all have been dealt.
Helping someone else out creates its own effect: now you’ve become remembered, even if you did not intend that.
Or you’ve been tweeted about because your service was freely given and appreciated.
Or contacted via email with a message that reads: “Say – I heard about your work from Steve. I have this project I could use your help on. It pays well. Are you available…?”
Steve and I got the boat refinished and outfitted to sail. When I left L.A. his boat was back in a wet dock, and he was planning where to take it next.
As I got on the plane to return home, I believe he thanked me for the four weeks I spent helping him. I’m not sure, but it wasn’t important to me at the time – I’d already received my thanks in the form of helping a friend in need.
What goes around will someday come back around. It’s all part of Karma – and I’m happy to give.
Ronald Sieber is a freelance writer located in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. He writes commercial copy for the automotive, health, and construction industries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his site: www.RonaldSieber.com.