So I’m reading the latest post on my neighbour’s blog, which is all about over-extending. Nope, not talking about yoga here. Rather, it’s the tackling of a terrifyingly long list of tasks with only 24 hours per day and a single set of hands at one’s disposal.
I’m relating to this, big-time. If you’re like most Canadians then you probably get it, too. My personal list of unpaid jobs would be the same but different. I’m not running a networking group for entrepreneurs or coordinating a play group or writing four blogs (okay, I am writing two. But still…) On the other hand, I’m providing hours of daily assistance to a family member with disabilities, I put in time to help my child’s classroom and choir, I organize a small neighbour network, I try to keep my perennial garden in passable shape, I put all the dinners on the table, I do lots and lots and lots of laundry, etc., etc. I also stickhandle a never-ending written list of tasks I must do, and that I ostensibly intend to do, but that probably have little hope of ever getting done – thanks to the aforementioned list of stuff I’m already doing. This to-do list only adds to the stresspile because it always sits nearby, taunting me with its mere existence.
Is it possible to volunteer too much? To give so much of yourself that you’re left depleted? In a documentary featuring the Dalai Lama, his holiness commented that his desire to help others extends even to a mosquito that wants to feed from his veins. I dunno. Me, I’m all for donating blood, but when all you get in return is an itchy bug bite… not so much.
I do think it’s possible to do too much. I like to think of giving as something that doesn’t deprive you, but rather makes you richer. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed instead of rewarded, then it may mean the balance is a bit out of whack.
But that doesn’t mean you gotta give up on good deeds. Why not try simpler, less time-consuming acts of kindness? Take a short time-out to pick up a piece of garbage, hold a door, make a modest donation to charity, pay a person a compliment. Each act makes a degree of difference. When I analyzed my 50 days of good deeds, I was frankly surprised to find that these deeds had taken an average of just 17 minutes each. And three-quarters of them consumed 15 minutes or less of my day.
In my opinion, that doesn’t make them bad good deeds. That makes them doable good deeds.