How Can We Help?

The Reason Behind the Reason for the Season

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It’s Christmas and every blogger worth his salt is writing a Holiday blog post–and I definitely want to be worth my salt—so here is my mandatory Christmas post!

Homer and I wish you a Merry Christmas and may 2013 be everything you wish it to be,!

This is made more difficult for me because I am not a Christian, but I’ve studied Christian theology at depth and long ago did consider myself a born-again Christian. So I find much to admire and emulate in Christianity and have known many, many wonderful people in the church. The last thing I would ever want to do is offend them. At the same time I find much to admire in all the world’s religions and recognize that the great majority of the followers of each religion follow their faith with their whole heart and live admirable, moral lives. And again, I don’t want to exclude them by celebrating what is at its heart a deeply religious holiday.
So what I’m going to do instead is look at a universal reason why we can all celebrate the birth of Christ. I want to find the common element we can all honor. Whatever you believe about the divinity of Christ (or even the existence of a divine being) I think we can all admire the way he lived his life. Whether you accept him as a savior, or merely as a great man, or as just a myth, we can all learn and gain from his story
I think one thing we can all agree on is that the life of Christ embodies selfless-ness and self-sacrifice. He was a perfect example of loving service to others, and that is something we can all strive to be more like.
I have told you several times that I went through a very dark time in a mid-life crisis. Today I want to tell you that the way I found my way through it (and to a truly happy life) which was through what I like to call “self-forgetting”. The spiritual program I follow states that all my basic problems can be boiled down to one thing:

“Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.”

As I examined my life with a searching and fearless moral inventory I reached the conclusion that this was 100% accurate for me. But not in the way you may first think. What I found was that nearly all my thoughts had the word “I” or “me” in them. As often as not these were not conscious thoughts as much as they were feelings. As I studied why I acted the way I did, I discovered they were virtually unconscious feelings operating at below the surface level of actual thoughts. It was those feelings that drove my actions. The core principle of those feelings was a constant self-absorption. Those feelings manifested themselves mainly as self-pity, fear, envy and anger.
When I tried to put words to the feelings I could see they were all self –absorbed:

  • I can’t be happy without….
  • I will finally be happy if….
  • If that happens, I will be miserable….
  • I am better than him.
  • I am not as good as her.
  • Why do these things keep happening to me?
  • You can’t treat me that way!!!
  • I deserve better than that.
  • I should have said….
  • Why don’t people love me?
  • I’ll show you!
  • No one will ever love me….

As a Christian I believed in self-sacrifice and service to others, and tried hard to practice that. No one around me thought of me as selfish or self-centered, but the fact remained that at the center of all my thoughts was “I” and “me”.
In my new program I was told that as long as my thoughts were centered in myself, I would be miserable, that my only hope was to turn my thoughts outward and focus them on others and how I may help them. I was given a simple kit of spiritual tools to make that happen. I clung to them like a drowning man to a life preserver! I shut my mouth and did as I was told and a miracle occurred in my life. I changed. I didn’t hate my “self” or reject my “self”, I simply stopped thinking about my “self” all the time, and started thinking about others. But I was told that I had not been permanently changed, that I had only been given a daily reprieve that was contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. Iit would only last so long as I acted on what I had been taught. The spiritual life was not a theory, I had to live it
The program I followed isn’t for everyone, it isn’t even the best one, but it worked for me. At it’s core it is nearly identical to the real reason we celebrate Christmas, living a life of service and unconditional love for others as exemplified by Christ in that manger so many years ago.
To truly celebrate his birth I am going to list some of my favorite quotes about self-less living, and encourage you to adopt it as a wonderful way of life.

“Whatever joy there is in the world…Arises from wishing for others’ happiness… Whatever suffering there is in the world… Arises from wishing for your own happiness.” ~Shantideva
“I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love…it is the common fiber of life, the flame that heats our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with.” ~  Brian Tracy
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” ~Mark Twain
“Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.” ~Gretta Brooker Palme
 “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” ~Albert Einstein

My deepest prayer in life is to live up to the standard my dog sets for me:

“A dog has one aim in life… to bestow his heart.”  ~J.R Ackerly



  1. HoboBerg

    Merry Christmas Bob!!! Thanks once again for the great post

    • Bob

      And merry Christmas to you to HoboBerg!

  2. Brian Kemsley

    Excellent, heartfelt post Bob….Merry Christmas and know you touch many lives in a positive fashion…
    And they said ” Ya-ho!”

    • Bob

      Thanks so much Brian. That means a lot coming from you!!

  3. Kim

    Merry Xmas Bob and Homer! Love the card.
    Reminds me of another Twain quote:
    Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

    • Bob

      And Merry Christmas to you too Kim! Twain was a very wise man! Bob

  4. The Good Luck Duck

    Now here’s a seasonal message I can get behind.
    This, and the Sun returning with greater force to our solar panels.
    Merry Christmas!

    • Bob

      Thanks Good Luck Duck! I like to look for our common agreements. I am all with you on the days getting longer. Like you it’s very obvious that with the short days I am not getting as much power into my batteries. Every minute helps!

  5. Jon

    Greetings Bob,
    A wonderful Christmas post. I really appreciate the thought and care you put into your very uplifting posts. I don’t know how you do it. I have to submit one small column for our newsletter at work every three months, and I feel like I have trouble coming up with material. Keep up the good work.
    Merry Christmas.

    • Bob

      Hi Jon, Merry Christmas to you also! Thanks you for your kind words, I appreciate them. I know what you mean about coming up with writing topics. When I am sure I have said everything I can possibly say, somehow something always comes up. I’m sure that is happens for you to, when it come time to write something, it is just there!

  6. Brad

    Merry Christmas to you Bob!
    Count me amongst the many who feel much gratitude for your example and wisdom.
    Your posts, especially those like this one, continue to inspire me to live a more free life – free from rent & free from the bondage of self obsession!
    Spent the morning replacing the cooling unit on the fridge in the Toyota Dolphin. Just a few more things to fix and everything will work. Whether everything gets done or not, I’ll see you at the RTR in a week and a half!
    Warm wishes to you and Homer!

    • Bob

      Brad, one of my favorite sayings is “Wherever you go, there you are!” Too many people travel to get away from themselves, but it doesn’t work. Unless you have solved most of life’s questions before you go, they may not get better on the road.
      For most of us though, the move to vandwelling is as much inside as outside; it is a whole new way of looking at life. That’s why I always say Vandwelling is an attitude and not a choice of vehicle or location.
      Part of breaking the bondage to our stuff is breaking the bondage to self. It sounds like you are well along the process!!!
      I’m looking forward to meeting you!

  7. Monica Nichols

    Merry Christmas!! I gave myself a Xmas gift and bought your book. Reading it now and had to look you up! 🙂 Love it so far and I’m only in the beginning. Have a wonderful day/night!

    • Bob

      Hi Monica, Marry Christmas to you as well! Thank you for buying the book, I hope it is worth it! If anything isn’t clear or leaves any questions, feel free to ask! Bob

  8. Joy

    Loved your post Bob!

    • Bob

      Thnaks Joy! Bob

  9. michael wilkerson

    Had a great time at the dinner yesterday. Thanks and thanks also for the words. Definitely something to chew on.

    • Bob

      Michael, I think you and your contribution were the hit of the party! I’m really glad you were there!
      See you soon.

  10. kitty

    Thank you, Bob 🙂

    • Bob

      You are very welcome Kitty! Bob

  11. kelly Howard

    Merry Christmas Bob!
    I loved this message. As a former Christian and current Buddhist I wasn’t sure what I would feel when I read it but found it very much what I believe too. I get my greatest joy when helping others. Thank you

    • Bob

      Kelly, I know exactly what you mean, I approach all Christmas messages with fear of being beaten over the head with ideas that work wonderfully well for some people, but not at all for me. Most of us get beaten up enough in this life without me adding to it.
      I know that you are not my only Buddhist reader, there are others. I don’t really adopt the practice of any religion, but of all the religious truths I have found, those of the Buddha are some of my most important. I turn to them often. Bob

  12. Calvin R

    Merry Christmas, Bob! I appreciate your description of that spiritual program, which sounds very like my own. I particularly appreciate, “The spiritual life was not a theory, I had to live it.” I have been saying that often recently, mostly because I need frequent reminders.

    • Bob

      Calvin, I am sure we have mutual friends. I too need frequent reminders.

  13. gretchenrose

    Hey Bob, You did it again with your words of wisdom, drawing on the great thinkers of many generations, that dang ego sure can get in the way of a spiritual life – you made my day after Christmas very special. Thanks a whole bunch to you and Homer!!1

    • Bob

      GretchenRose, no need to reinvent the wheel, so many others have said it better than I ever can!
      It’s I who owe you and all the readers my thanks, otherwise, I’d just be writing to myself! Bob

  14. CAE

    Once again, you’ve nailed it!
    One of the best things I get from helping someone else is that I can forget about me for a while. What a relief it is!
    Helping someone or something that has lost all hope is the closest most of us will ever get to divinity.

    • Bob

      CAE, we share a common understanding of what makes life worth living! I suspect most of us do. Bob

  15. Angeli

    A bit late, but Merry Everything!
    Best Wishes for an abundant year, Bob.

    • Bob

      Thanks Angeli, and a happy new year to you too!!

  16. Sue

    Great post Bob. And isnt it the truth that thinking about oneself all the time does nothing good for oneself. Happy Holidays.

    • Bob

      We think very much alike Sue!

  17. Trisha

    I just finished reading your post…am behind on my reading! It was timely for me though because I was just reading about the Narcisstic Personaly Disorder. (I like to keep refreshed in my field even though I am retired). I feel so sorry for these folks because I too, find thinking of me-me-me a burden. I am not one to do alot for other people, in terms of material things, but to listen to others is my reward in life, to perhaps say something that encourages them to think of things in a new or different way, is the way I try to help people. It is very gratifying when I am able to do this.
    You, Bob are a natural psychologist as this is what you do so often for all of us. Help us to think of things in a new or different way.
    Thank you.

    • Bob

      Trisha, thank you for your generous words. There is an advantage in making as many mistakes as I have, eventually you stumble on the right way to do things. Hopefully others can gain from those experiences.

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