“Find your Calcutta.” ~Mother Teresa
Something is missing in your life, isn’t it?
You’re working hard, trying to get ahead, doing everything you possibly can to make life just a little bit better. You’re trying to keep it all balanced, though. You won’t be one of those people who commits every waking second to work and the pursuit of career.
Not you. You’ve got it figured out. You even make time to exercise, eat right, meditate, or maybe spend time with friends and family.
You’ve got it all figured out—except for that one stupid thing that keeps tugging at your heart. You don’t really know what it is, but it is there, and it is driving you a little crazy.
Yeah, I know. I get that feeling sometimes too.
It is often mistaken as unhappiness, fatigue, depression, or being stuck in a rut. Many people will go off and do wild vacations or try things they would never try in a million years just to see if those activities settle the strange, inexplicable emptiness they feel inside.
When they return to the real world, though, the problem is still there, still nagging at them.
Maybe they think they didn’t go “extreme” enough, and will push themselves harder. Or maybe they take it in a totally different direction and put more time into meditation, or even trying to manifest happiness in their lives.
Or do you have it under control? I’m guessing since you’re still reading, you don’t. It’s okay. Neither do I.
In fact, neither do most people.
So, what is this mysterious thing that is pulling at you, leaving you feeling empty and unfulfilled in a life that would, from the outside, seem all but amazing? It’s the pursuit of happiness.
Before you click away from the page, thinking that this is another article about how when you stop pursuing things, that is when they come to you, don’t.
It’s not about that at all.
We are constantly presented with things that we believe will make us happy. New cars, flashier televisions, prettier women or men, houses, furniture, more money, exotic vacations, and a myriad of things that go along with that stuff.
We are pounded by books, blogs, and billboards about how we can get everything we want in life, and live happier, better, and wealthier.
The simple truth is, we are so focused on getting what we want that we forget about everyone else in the world around us. And therein lies the key to that empty feeling inside.
Right now, there are people who are hungry. And not just in Africa or India. They might be within a square mile of you. There are kids who don’t have a decent place to sleep.
Let me tell you a quick story.
Recently, a friend of mine (a former high school teacher) passed away. He had been fighting leukemia and eventually cancer for a long time. He was 74 years old.
When I met him, I thought he was one of the most energetic people I’d ever come across. Of course, I was only 16 at the time. His Italian ancestry only added to the natural charisma he displayed on a daily basis.
This teacher started a program at my high school called Project 5000. It was an initiative aimed at collecting five thousand canned goods to distribute to needy families in our area. I can still remember seeing the boxes of food under the auditorium stage.
Not only did our little school of 300 kids collect five thousand cans, we collected far more. And every single year, the number grew, surpassing multiple tens of thousands every year.
Because of his efforts, many needy families got to have a few good meals around Thanksgiving, even if it was just a few.
My friend also helped out at a place called the Chambliss home, a transitional facility for kids similar to an orphanage. He organized a Christmas program there every year so that, at least for a night, those kids could actually be kids.
Why am I telling you about this?
Because this teacher always had a smile on his face. He always had tons of energy. And because of one very important thing he told me in relation to the problem I discussed earlier.
He said that if you live your life providing a service to others, you will have the most fulfilling life possible.
And there it is. We’ve been so focused on getting what we want in this world that we forget that there are people who have desperate needs. You don’t have to look far to find them either.
They could be right up the street, in a local school, a homeless shelter, a nursing home, or any number of places.
At the moment, I work in a school that has a student body that is 100 percent on free and reduced lunch. Basically, that means it is a school of kids from low-income homes. I work there as a school counselor and as the boys’ soccer coach.
My commute sucks, nearly an hour each way. The hours suck (since my best energy times are not waking up at 5:30 and working until 5:00 in the afternoon).
When my friends ask me why I don’t quit or find a job closer to home at a better school, I explain to them that it is my Calcutta. While, sometimes the work is not stimulating, and the kids can be a little rough around the edges, it is a place where there is a great need.
Ever since I started looking at it that way, I have been a lot happier in the rest of my life. I am more fulfilled because I know that I am providing a service to people in need, and not just living for myself.
When I get home I have more energy, a happier demeanor, and I feel like I have done something good.
The bottom line is, helping others energizes you and fills you with good feelings.
Where can you find your Calcutta? It could be as simple as donating a piece of furniture to a needy family. Or you could give a few hours a month at the local soup kitchen. Are you an expert at something that could help solve a problem for people? Find a way to do that on a semi-regular basis. It can literally be almost anything.
The point is that you serve someone. And by serving others, you will begin to notice that strange, empty feeling begin to dissipate until one day, you find yourself smiling all the time.
Photo by Shisheido USA