This is something I think about and at times struggle with. I like to give. I like to do nice things for other people, volunteer at the animal shelter, even pick up trash and recyclables around my neighborhood. But at times I feel overwhelmed. Like it's never going to end. "When is enough enough?" I wonder.
Take my dogs, for starters. I enjoy taking them for walks. Most of the time. It's somewhat of a meditational experience for me. I know two of my dogs would like to go out on hour-long walks, or longer, every single day. I typically take them out four or five days a week. At least one of those walks is close to an hour, but the others tend to be around twenty to thirty minutes.
Is this enough? I know I could be doing more, that's the thing. So when is enough enough?
Now about picking up litter. I have a thing about recycling. I cannot fathom why anyone would not recycle. When I'm walking my dogs (or walking across a parking lot) and I see a plastic bottle, aluminum can, or other recyclable, I will usually pick it up, take it home, and put it in my recycle bin. I figure if I don't, then more often than not, whenever it eventually does get picked up, by the people who do that, it'll just be thrown in the trash.
Sometimes I'll be on a long walk with my dog, through a certain area that tends to have more litter on the ground, and I'll pick up ten pieces or more. As many as I can fit into a plastic grocery bag (usually that I've also picked up from the ground).
Other days, however, I feel almost resentful that I'm picking up all this trash. Why is it my job to clean up after everyone else?
Yet I feel a distict pull in two opposite directions. The desire to help the planet, and be kind to nature by picking up litter, and an indignant attitude of "I didn't throw it there, it's not my job to pick it up."
When is enough enough? I get that I can't pick up all the litter and recycle everything. So when is enough enough?
Ok, what about the animal shelter? I love volunteering there. It's such a great place. Truly one of the best shelters you can imagine. They have awesome staff members and many awesome volunteers. Still, there are some days, despite everyone's best efforts, that some dogs only get out one time.
The minimum committment they request from volunteers is eight hours a month. Basically, a two-hour shift on a set day, every week. Not much. When I go for "my day," I typically will be there three hours, on average. I can usually walk 8-12 dogs in this time period. There are usually at least 50 dogs any given day that need to be walked by volunteers.
Again, I know I can't walk them all, every day. Well, technically, I could, but that would be a full-time job in and of itself. I've accepted that I can, and will, do what I can with the time I have available that day. The longer I've been volunteering there (two and a half years now), it's easier to walk out when I know I need to go. But sometimes I still feel guilty.
I know other volunteers will be coming in, or are already there, continuing the walking. Yet, I could do more, couldn't I? I could stay another hour. I could come in an extra day. I could always do more. When is enough enough?
It's such a balancing act. Sure, I could spend eight hours a day at the animal shelter, but what time would be left for my own dogs at home? Or my writing. Or working at the florist, earning a steady paycheck?
When it comes to giving, though, I have a hard time with this. When do you stop?
Obviously I've been managing so far in my life. I pick up as many pieces of litter as I can either fit in my pockets, carry in my hands, or fit in the bag. I spend as many hours at the shelter as I can mentally and physically spend. I walk my dogs frequent enough that they get good exercise and stimulation, but I still have hours in the day left to do what I need to do.
So why the struggle? Why this blog post ranting about the struggle?
I'm thinking this rant is my ego. Spirits don't rant, do they? It's my ego feeling overtaxed, put-on, burdened, etc. It's my ego asking, "Can I stop now? I want to do things for me now."
Ok, so in the quest to silence the ego... or at least ignore it... if I lived entirely in my spirit wouldn't I be giving all the time? Wouldn't I, then, spend two to three days a week, entire days, at the animal shelter? Or more? Wouldn't I go out, with a large bag, and pick up all the litter I possibly can on a regular basis? Wouldn't I walk my dogs to their contentment, not mine?
Just thinking about that, my mind goes to all the time that would take. Part of me does, in fact, want to live that way. There's an appeal to it. It's all tasks I generally like to do and would like to do more of. Yet I stop myself.
I consciously tell myself, "That's enough."
I don't have the answer here. I want to do more. Most of the time I really do. But the realities of time and money creep in and I make myself stop giving and move on to something more.... I don't know the word I'm looking for here... more productive isn't right, because giving IS productive. More money-earning perhaps? If I could actually get money for picking up litter and volunteering at the shelter (I know, that negates the term, "volunteer"), I'd be all set! I'd pick up litter for hours, happily!
I look at people like Mother Teresa. She is one of the most inspiring people to have ever lived, in my opinion. She gave and gave and gave some more. It was all she did. Give. (It's why all the quotes today are hers.)
Here's my ego creeping back in though (or maybe it's not my ego as much as my reality): Did Mother Teresa have a house payment? I don't know where she lived in India, but I'm sure it was pretty basic. She didn't have to pay for gas in her car. Or the car itself. Her grocery bill was probably quite small. She didn't have to pay for gas and electric and water. Or if she did, it was probably a fairly small amount.
So what's the answer? Sell my house, live under a bridge (where would my animals go?), and just give all day, every day?
Perhaps the quote from Mother Teresa herself, below, is the answer.
Why don't I give more? Because of fear. I'm afraid that if I give more, then I won't have enough. Maybe it's time to challenge that belief. Live in LOVE, not fear, after all, right?
*The last line in the second quote below, "It was never between you and them anyway," really touches me. THAT is what we all need to remember, isn't it?