The human mind loves harmony and consistency, and when you feel stress and anxiety it’s often a signal that things in your mind are out of balance. For instance, George is the father of a 15-year old girl who has been arrested for shoplifting. George feels he is tolerant and shows understanding toward his daughter, is a reasonable disciplinarian, and a good source of parental guidance. And yet, she’s in trouble with the law! Now those things are not harmonious, and George is under a lot of stress as a result.
George decides his daughter needs counseling and medication, so he sets up an appointment with a psychiatrist. He also forbids her to hang out with a certain group of peers, and he monitors her social media activities. Unfortunately, nothing seems to work. His daughter remains hostile, uncooperative, agitated, and often downright nasty toward him. George struggles to cope as the imbalances in his mind continue to bring him considerable anxiety.
A major part of George’s problem, of course, is that he has trouble examining his role in his daughter’s behavior, and he doesn’t see how his actions contribute to her problems, many of which are a normal part of navigating the psychological and biological minefield that is adolescence. His approach to the problem is self-absorbed, keeping himself as the dominant element in the equation. He can’t find the empathic understanding to see things from his daughter’s perspective.
Then there’s Kevin, 56, a former construction worker who is widowed with two sons who are married and live 2,000 miles away. Kevin is on disability because of a work accident from several years ago. He spends most of his days at home watching TV, dwelling on how stressed and depressed he is. His self-esteem, self-confidence, and initiative are in the toilet.
He was once a burly, outgoing guy loaded with motivation, a can-do attitude, and a willingness to confidently take on any job at a work site. Then came his accident and his wife’s death from cancer. His behavior switched from “out of my way, I can handle this,” to, “I’m not much good anymore.” His mind lost its harmony and sent out SOS signals in the form of anxiety and depression.
Then one day came a call from Jim, a friend: “Kevin! I need help. I have to deliver for Meals on Wheels today but I pulled my back something terrible. I can drive OK, but getting in and out of the car is agony. Would you come with me and take the meals up to the door?”
Kevin was glad to get out of the house and said he would help. Turns out he had some unexpected and remarkable experiences when he delivered the meals. One woman yelled out when he knocked, “It’s open! I can’t get to the door very good!” She was in the kitchen and Kevin put the meal in the fridge for her. He started for the front door but she grabbed his arm and said, “Pray with me, please.”
Kevin returned to the car and told Jim: “I stood there holding her hand while she thanked God for me being there to help her. Prayed for me! I mean, no one ever thanked God for me!” Jim said, ‘Yeh, Gladys is a doll. Really makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?’”
And on it went as Kevin went to the front door at each stop. No one else prayed for him, but nearly every one of them said, “God bless you,” as he left. One old guy was on his computer, which surprised Kevin, and he printed out this page with inspirational sayings on it about the importance of taking care of your neighbor. He told Kevin, “ This is for you. You’re a saint for living these words. Thank you so much.” Kevin was speechless.
Kevin got home that day, looked around the house, and realized that he suddenly felt better than he had since his accident and his wife’s death. As Kevin told Jim later, “I picked up the phone and called the Office of Aging. Said I wanted to volunteer to deliver meals. The lady said great and added that they also needed drivers to taxi old folks around to their doctor appointments, take them shopping…wherever they needed to go. I said, I’m your guy, ma’am. Just tell me what needs doing and I’ll get it done.”
Ah, the rebirth of Kevin. The confident, can-do guy of old was back. What a beautiful thing to see. But what happened to bring on this rebirth? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Kevin’s mental harmony was restored as he stopped focusing on his emotions and how miserable he was, and started to focus on helping others. He took himself and his pity parade out of the equation, and allowed his mind to find the old can-do Kevin by focusing on others.