I just read a wonderful speech given by the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibet and head of the world Buddhist community. Without his permission, I've written a paragraph after each of his, offering challenges to my friends and colleagues at the Union House Nursing Home, in Glover, Vermont. I welcome you to apply these words and questions to whatever community you associate with...be it home, work place, family. The Dalai Lama's words are first, in red, followed by mine.
“Everyone in our world is interrelated and interdependent. My own personal peace and happiness are my concern. I’m responsible for that. But the happiness and peace of the entire society is everyone’s concern. Each of us has the individual responsibility to do what we’re capable of to improve our world.”
Choosing to live or work at Union House Nursing Home, we automatically enter an unspoken agreement with each other. We join a close community under one roof. We share space, breath and time. How we conduct ourselves, from complaining to complimenting…and every behavior in between…effects everyone else. What an awesome responsibility…we actually can create joy or sadness or happiness or hopelessness.
"In our century, compassion is a necessity, not a luxury. Humans are social animals and we must live together, whether we like it or not. If we lack kind hearts and compassion for each other, our very existence is threatened. Even if we’re going to be selfish, we should be wisely selfish and understand that our personal survival and happiness depends on others. Therefore, kindness and compassion towards them are essential."
One simple act, such as thanking someone for help or for listening, can shine as the mightiest moment in the day. Taking a moment to look into someone’s eyes and share their story can bring a sense of well being no drug can deliver. Do any of us realize the power of our own voices, our own lives?
"Bees and ants have no religion, no education or philosophy, yet they instinctively cooperate with each other. In doing so, they insure the survival of their society and the happiness of each individual in it. Surely, we humans, who are more intelligent and sophisticated, can do the same!"
Imagining UHNH is a big bee hive or ant hill, how are you contributing to our little society’s success? Are you carrying your load? Are you focused on your task, respecting boundaries and limitations? Are you keeping secrets or breaking trusts?
"Thus, we each have the individual responsibility to help others in whatever way we can. However, we shouldn’t expect to change the world instantly. As long as we’re not enlightened, our actions to benefit others will be limited. Without inner peace it is impossible to have world peace. Therefore, we must improve ourselves and at the same time do what we can to help others."
Quality of life is created by common agreement and effort. At UHNH, if we decide that high standards of cleanliness, nutrition, attentiveness, accuracy and kindness are worth upholding…we create a bit of heaven on earth. Think of how you use your energy: are you wasting precious breath on meaningless chatter and gossip? Do you make things harder for yourself and others, by always taking the easy path, just to get by? Are you making peace or war? Why cheat yourself from being GREAT?