A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. – Anon.
Yet both candles benefit.
Years ago I hard a lecture by a man who had worked with what then were called “juvenile delinquents” – kids in trouble. So often they would come to him complaining and hurting about the lack of love in their lives. They would tell him stories of abuse and scorn that had been heaped on them by families that made the word “dysfunctional” look like a day at the beach.
Every hurt they felt was real.
Every memory was searing.
What was amazing to me is what he told them to do.
He told them to find someone or something to love – to help someone else. And he helped them do it.
He didn’t just comfort them and send them on their way. He told them to GIVE love. He knew that as they loved another they would find the abundant nature of their own hearts. He knew love was not a limited commodity that must be measured out in small doses – it was infinite, ever renewing, inexhaustible. The more we give, the more we have to give.
He said that the deepest loneliness was not the absence of received love, it was the absence of expressed love.
The man was Peter Marin, who in 1975 had written the legendary article "The New Narcissism" in Harper's magazine.
Marin recounted a conversation he had with a man who had embraced a popular sort of pseudomystic spirituality.
He was telling Marin about his sense of another reality.
"I know there is something outside of me," he said. "I can feel it. I know it is there. But what is it?"
"It may not be a mystery," Marin said. "Perhaps it is the world."