Henry Thoreau, the 19th century writer, naturalist and philosopher once remarked:
“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look to affect the quality of the day—that is the highest of arts.”
He was trying to remind us that great art is not restricted to painting, music, sculpture and writing; instead still greater is the art that affects the quality of life of people.
There is an art of bringing hope to the world of despair. Thoreau makes us think of people like St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa—people who, through the nobility of their lives, made an impact on their world
There is no end to the number of such artists. It includes the countless obscure, good people who quietly affect the lives of those about them without even being aware they are doing it, winning no commendation, expecting none.
Everybody must, at one time or another, have known people—strangers, as well as friends—who have changed the quality of their day. They come into a room in a dark hour, a sickroom, or a death bed, a room without hope, or merely at a time when we are lonely or discouraged.
They may say little, if anything. But the shining quality of goodness radiates from them, and where there was dark, there is now light, or the beginning of light; where there was cowardice there is courage; where there was listlessness there is love of life.
These friends or wonderful strangers we may meet at a picnic, in a lifeboat, in a hospital waiting-room— humble and unaware, they carry with them the kindness and generosity of their lives. These, according to Thoreau, are the greatest artists, for they practice the highest of the arts—the art of life itself. We all have a wonderful gift which we alone can give. It may be a heartfelt smile to people around us, our family, our colleagues—or showing just a little kindness to those who come our way.
Don’t we all want a reason for being born, and a way that is worthwhile to spend our time on this earth? There is no second chance. Now is the time. It We all have a wonderful gift which we alone can give. The greatest gift you can give to another is the purity of your love. We all have immense capacity for love –and it costs nothing. It’s a beautiful contagion that passes through individuals.
It could be the school teacher, the family doctor, the colleague in the office, the neighbour or even a total stranger who leads our lives from darkness to light, from anxiety to peace, from cowardice to courage and from depression to love of life.
It may be a heartfelt smile to people around us, kindness shown to a frustrated youth, help to a poor and hungry soul, consolation to an aggrieved man, or affection to an orphan child. A bright face, a little appreciation and sympathy, a ready hand and a kind encouraging voice—they send a fellow traveller on her way refreshed, strengthened and comforted. Don’t we all want a reason for being born, and a way that is worthwhile to spend our time on this earth? There is no second chance. Now is the time.
There are countless people who contribute to improving others’ quality of life and whose small deeds of kindness instill courage and hope for those in anguish. It. “To love someone” says Fyodor Dostoevsky, “means to see him as God intended him.”
One of the greatest tragedies of modern man is the alienation and abandonment that haunt him. This is an ailment which no hospital can treat, no medicine can heal, no surgery can cure; neither the ancient wisdom of the East nor the modern science of the West has an answer for this. Kindness and love are not about giving away money or buying expensive gifts, although it is necessary to do these things on certain occasions. When you give of your possessions, you give little. When you give of yourself, you give all. A sympathetic ear, a smile or helping hands in times of distress are all what most people need to receive and to give.
Attention is the most basic form of love. By paying attention we let ourselves be touched by life, and our hearts naturally become more open and engaged. There is no greater teacher of morals than love itself, for the first lesson that one learns from love is, “I am not, you are.” According to Dr. Richard Moss, “The greatest gift you can give to another is the purity of your attention.” The marvelous thing about it is that once the unhappy person feels that somebody cares about him he is often able to begin caring more about others. Love liberates love: it is as direct and miraculous as that.
Attention is a golden coin, a highly precious thing which can work magic. Learn to pay it graciously and gladly, and the dividends will come pouring back to you. The love that transcends love is a love that liberates. It brings both fullness and mindfulness. We therefore have to teach our consciousness and our hearts to love in the absolute of the moment and in full awareness of time, to be there and to know.The finest love transcends separation, longing and death.
To use the beautiful message of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:
“All the state subsidies in the world will never be able to replace the warmth of assistance rendered by one individual, one human being to another. It is man alone by his personal charity who can really bring succour to his neighbour in need. Without the individual who offers bread to the hungry, who cares for the sick, who brings help to the refuges, all assistance is devoid of soul.”