My friend Kane’s father was a television repairman in the 1950’s. One day Herman went out on a house call to service the TV of an old man named Jake, who lived alone. Herman found that Jake’s television was missing a tube, which he replaced in a few moments. Then Herman spent about 20 minutes chatting amiably with Jake.
Three days later Jake called Herman to fix the same television. This time a different tube was missing. Herman replaced the tube and hung out with Jake for another little while.
Several days later Jake again reported that his TV was on the blink. This time a different tube was missing. It did not take Herman long to figure out that the Jake himself was removing the tubes. He just wanted some company.
A Course in Miracles asks us to keep our priorities in order. Spirit first, matter second. People before stuff. Love before fear. Leo Buscaglia noted, “We were born to love people and use things, but we learn to love things and use people.” Imagine the following situation: You wake up one morning and feel like having some French Toast for breakfast. When you look in the pantry you find no bread, so you go to the local grocery store, pick up a loaf of bread, and chat with the clerk a bit on your way out. What was your purpose in going to the store? For the bread, you might answer hastily. But on a deeper level you went to connect with the clerk. Sure, you wanted some food. But more significantly you were feeding your soul and that of the clerk by engaging with him in a loving way.
In a recent newspaper column I read a series of angry letters from supermarket clerks complaining about how rudely they are treated by customers talking on their cell phones in the checkout line. One clerk counted that out of over 200 people she served on her shift, 47 were talking on their cell phones. Most of them, she reported, were discourteous, acting as if she was interrupting them from something more important, while she was simply trying to help them. These clerks’ frustration was due not only to their customers’ rudeness, but their energetic absence. As spiritual beings, we are fed by our connection with each other. When we seek to connect with another person and they are not there, we are left feeling hungry. These clerks, already frustrated by the banality of their work, were reaching out for human contact, and when their customers treated them like an intrusion, they grew hurt and angry. They were working there not just for money, but for love.
You don’t need to keep taking the tubes out of your television to get the nurturing you want. You can ask for it directly. You can take the initiative to create the intimacy you crave. (The word “intimacy “ is built of three smaller words, “into me see.”) During one period in my life I was feeling quite lonely, and I picked up a book by Emmanuel, through Pat Rodegast. Emmanuel suggested that there is no such thing as a bad feeling; every feeling you have is guiding you toward greater self-knowledge and fulfillment. (An emotion is e-motion energy in motion, moving you to your next step in life.) So I decided to embrace my loneliness rather than resist it or distract myself from it. I asked my loneliness what was its message to me. It was telling me, I realized, that I had cut myself off from people. My feeling of emptiness was moving me to reach out and connect in a more meaningful way. So I called a few friends and made some appointments to get together and share what was happening in our lives. Soon my loneliness dissipated, and I was grateful for the message it had delivered to me.
I once did a retreat on a small nearly-deserted island near Vancouver B.C., at a rustic Y.M.C.A. camp. The caretaker, Dave, kept walking into the meeting room during our seminars; he was always seeking to fix something or on his way to the next room. At first I felt annoyed by Dave’s persistent presence. Then I realized that he wanted to be a part of our group. So we invited Dave to join us, and he eagerly participated in our processes. Dave revealed that several years earlier his wife and young daughter were killed in a car crash. Dave took the job as camp caretaker so he could hide from life. But he found that he could not hide from himself or the call of his heart. He craved human contact and encouragement to give life another chance. Our group took Dave in and gave him a lot of love, which he received gratefully.
I’ll never forget the day we left the island. As our boat launched out from the pier, Dave stood at the edge of the dock waving vigorously to us. He was smiling and weeping at the same time. As our vessel made its way back to the mainland, Dave just kept waving until he appeared as but a pinprick on the horizon. (I think he might still be waving.) It was an important weekend for him. And us. Dave got some of his tubes back that weekend. So did we. Funny, I don’t remember anything else about that whole seminar. We went there not just for the bread. We went there for Dave. And he for us.
This article contains an excerpt from Alan Cohen’s new breakthrough bestseller Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It. To order it or request a free catalog of Alan’s books, tapes, and seminars, call 1 800 568-3017 or visit www.SpiritFirst.com. Join Alan for the life-transforming Mastery Training in Maui, August 25-31 or November 30–December 6. Phone the above 800 number, email email@example.com, or write PO Box 835, Haiku, HI 96708.