The Zen of Contribution

October 25, 2018

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” - John Bunyon

I drive past a traffic light newspaper seller every day on my way to the office.  One day I drove to a nearby shopping centre for lunch.  On my way there I passed this newspaper seller, still selling newspapers in the hot summer sun.

As I walked through the food store trying to make up my mind what to eat, I thought about the newspaper man working in the sun.  Along with my lunch I also bought an extra 500ml coke and a sandwich.

As I approached the traffic light I pulled over and motioned the man to come over.  He eagerly ran to me hoping to sell a paper.  Great was his surprise when I offered him lunch, which he eagerly accepted with a grateful smile.

This happened several months ago and still every morning, this newspaper seller somehow picks me out of the traffic to give me a big smile and a wave.

Everyday Contribution Opportunities

We tend to rush through life, too busy to pause at the brief opportunities presented to us to contribute to the wellbeing of someone else.  These opportunities come our way every day, but you must be on the lookout for them, they are brief and often very subtle.

However, our lifestyles make it very easy to brush these opportunities aside and move on to the next meeting or phone call or e-mail, so urgent, yet very often unimportant. We often miss the important, yet not urgent, opportunities to contribute and make somebody’s life better.

An Attitude of Contribution

Maybe your act of contribution is to give someone an unexpected lunch.  I will never know how much my small act really meant to the man.  The key is to live with an attitude of contribution.  To have your mind-set changed from looking for opportunities where you can benefit yourself to looking for opportunities where you can benefit others.  Living with this contribution focussed mind makes you more sensitive to the brief opportunities where you can make a difference.

A Contributor is someone who looks differently at the world. Their focus has shifted from being self-centred to being people centred.  Instead of trying to make sure they get the most for themselves out of every situation, they look for opportunities to contribute. They are open to the needs of others and do not shy away from getting involved where it is sometimes uncomfortable.

Contributors understand every small act of kindness or assistance or sometimes just a friendly smile for a stranger will probably not solve all the problems.  However, their focus is on the immediate small difference they can make in the moment to the person.  Contributors act, believing it is impossible to determine the ripple effect one small act can have, and therefore they act.

The Contribution Challenge

Can you remember the last time you selflessly contributed, without thinking; “What can I get out of this?”

How often do you miss opportunities to make a difference, just because you are chasing urgent but unimportant things, keeping you busy and drawn away from the need all around us every day?

Take up the challenge and try to live for seven days as a Contributor, seeking out opportunities to make a difference in at least one person’s life every day.  When you look back at the end of the seven days, you will almost certainly see a difference in your life as well.  You will experience a greater amount of gratitude and by contributing to others you might just find you contributed to your own life as well.

Share your stories of contribution here and how it affected your life. 

About the author

Joseph Hawking has a passion for people & leadership development and since he discovered his mom’s old typewriter as a boy, have been writing in some form or another. He is part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network, where he is a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. He believes that the highest form of living is using what you have been blessed with, to add value to other people’s lives. He has been publishing The Leadership Connexion blog since August 2018.