It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again
- Foo Fighters, Times Like These
The oblique reference to giving amidst suffering in the above lyrics aptly conveys one of the more enduring mysteries of our existence. When pain and adversity come, our natural inclination is to start clutching and grasping for all things - not just money, but time, possessions, words, and even relationships. Giving is usually the furthest thing from our mind.
The irony is that often giving is exactly what can start us on the road to recovering from suffering. No, giving can't solve the original pain point - it can't cure the disease, reconcile the relationship, or provide us the material things we lost. But it can change our mental attitude, which is often the longest lasting part of the suffering.
Personally, I have yet to experience a downturn in my life that began to get better until I was willing to give a little of my time to help someone else, to give a kind word to another hurting soul, to part with something I didn't really need as much as someone else did, and to be less of a taker and more of a giver in relationships.
While there is irony that giving can alleviate suffering, there is perhaps a greater irony that no matter how many times we learn this lesson, we always seem to have to relearn it, time and time again. Apparently the tendency to keep and retain everything is so instinctive that when we are suffering, we are generally not able to realize that there is a better choice. I hope that writing this article will help me make that connection sooner the next time I'm in that situation.