Co-founder of servicespace.org, Nipun Mehta delivered a provoking commencement speech last year to the graduating class of Harker. It still stays with me to this day. In it he talked about how the world has become fundamentally disconnected, and what we (graduates and non-graduates alike) can do to try and fix those bits of broken culture, where, for example, the average American adult reports having only one true friend to count on in their daily lives.
One of Mehta’s primary concerns is that we have somehow allowed our relationship to gadgets and things to overtake our real-world ties, and that in the process we’ve forgotten how to rescue each other. Yet, he believes that deep inside we all still have that capacity, and that we know it exists because we’ve seen it, especially during times of crisis. The question facing all of us is whether we can step up to rebuild a culture of trust, empathy and compassion – and whether or not we can begin to start doing that in everyday ‘run of the mill Monday’ ways as opposed to only when some kind of emergency or disaster strikes.
For Mehta, it boils down to three keys, which he believes can help us return to a place of connection with and to one another.
The First Key Is To Give.
– Maybe greed is good, but generosity is better.
– People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are simply wired to give.
– Our capacity to love is a currency that never runs out.
Mehta suggests trying to discover every day, what it means to give.
The Second Key Is To Receive.
– When we give, we receive many times over.
– With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our bio-chemistry changes, our mind quiets, and we feel a sense of gratefulness.
– This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives.
Mehta suggests that to be truly selfish, you must be generous, but that in giving, you may fully experience what it means to receive.
The Third Key Is To Dance.
– Biggest problem with giving and receiving is that we try and track it.
– When we do that, we lose the beat.
– The best dancers are never singularly focused on the mechanics of their movements. They know how to let go, tune into the rhythm and synchronize with their partners.
Mehta suggests that it’s like this with giving too, and that it’s a futile exercise to track who is getting what. Instead: We just have to dance.
Dancing, tells us to stop keeping track.
Sometimes you’re giving and sometimes you’re receiving, but it doesn’t really matter because the real reward of that give and take doesn’t lie in the value of what’s being exchanged. The real reward lies in what flows between us – our connection.