One of the hidden stress responses Kelly McGonigal talks about in her book The Upside of Stress is the “tend and befriend” response: Stress physiologically compels us to help others and strengthen relationships. We can tap into this stress response, she says, whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed simply by answering one question:
Today I’m grateful to be in love with a man who I support unconditionally and who supports me just the same. I’m thankful to live in a country that recognizes our relationship and allows us to obtain a visa so he can move here and we can live together. And I’m thankful for the small number of amazing people who have donated to help us cover these costs.
Will you take a moment to make a small contribution? Just click here.
He was drunk. At least I think he was. I heard the can clink against the grey metal box on a pole I had never noticed before while I was still across the street. I had just finished rehearsing my performance for tomorrow night–a six-minute splathering of emotions into air–and here he was, clinging to his beverage can–I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he wasn’t drinking–just to keep his balance.
Service is obviously an important part of anything calling itself an alternative service break, and I’ve alluded many times to multiple service projects–both here and in Belize. In this post I’m finally breaking it down into the most concrete blocks possible: I’m telling you what we’ve done and more importantly, what we’re going to do.
A while ago I said sharing money is a means of sharing opportunity. More so than anything else I’ve spoken about, giving me the opportunity to do this service is what will truly make a difference in the world today. Awareness and information? They’re great. They help us adapt our practices to a changing world and ensure it’ll last for our children and theirs, but looking always at the horizon isn’t enough. It takes concrete action today to make concrete change today–and today, it’s this action I’m telling you about.
And when that web came, I got caught up in it. No matter which direction I pulled, the strings held me back. Each crystalline thread became a chain, and somewhere just out of sight, I knew there was a demon lurking waiting to wrap me in its poison, and swallow me whole, my lungs still full of air, my heart still beating, still bleeding.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape. I could change my perspective, look up or look down, turn my eyes and scan the horizon, but I was still tied in place. Only if someone could come and cut me down would I be freed from this torment. Only if I there were someone nearby.
But for all I could see, I was alone. There was no one.
Recently I heard two people say two things about Chanukah, and both of them stayed with me.
The first was said by Bear Bergman when I heard him speak on Wednesday. He said (and I believe he was quoting one of his grandparents, who was talking about the shamash), that helpers aren’t happy if they’re not helping. The second thing was said by my sister, that Chanukah isn’t about presents, it’s about presence.
They were both nice thoughts, and thoughts worth considering more deeply. I’ve done them no justice here, and likewise, I probably won’t. Like any good math book, however, I’ll leave the proof up the reader.