I just came back from month long humanitarian mission in flooded areas of Bosnia & Herzegovina. I’ve been working there with a group of international volunteers, helping local people to clean their houses and farms from mud and flood debris. It was a hard job, sometimes in extremely dirty and smelly conditions, exposed to extreme summer heat. At the same time it was one of most rewarding experiences in my life – helping others while expecting nothing in return, making people see that help is possible, that they are worthy of help, that it is good to help others and that it is OK to accept help. A real Karma Yoga type of experience. One man whose house and farm we were cleaning and rebuilding said to us: “Many times I saw on TV disasters and earthquakes happening in faraway countries, but I never did anything about it. And now you came from faraway to help me! This made me think – maybe I should help others in future, and I decided I will do so”.
While on this project I was often thinking about Swami Vivekananda’s lecture called “We help ourselves, not the world”. So much truth and wisdom contained in it:
“Our duty to others means helping others; doing good to the world. Why should we do good to the world? Apparently to help the world, but really to help ourselves. We should always try to help the world, that should be the highest motive in us; but if we consider well, we find that the world does not require our help at all. This world was not made that you or I should come and help it. I once read a sermon in which it was said, “All this beautiful world is very good, because it gives us time and opportunity to help others.” Apparently, this is a very beautiful sentiment, but is it not a blasphemy to say that the world needs our help? We cannot deny that there is much misery in it; to go out and help others is, therefore, the best thing we can do, although in the long run, we shall find that helping others is only helping ourselves. “
“No beggar whom we have helped has ever owed a single cent to us; we owe everything to him, because he has allowed us to exercise our charity on him. It is entirely wrong to think that we have done, or can do, good to the world, or to think that we have helped such and such people. It is a foolish thought, and all foolish thoughts bring misery. We think that we have helped some man and expect him to thank us, and because he does not, unhappiness comes to us. Why should we expect anything in return for what we do? Be grateful to the man you help, think of him as God. Is it not a great privilege to be allowed to worship God by helping our fellow men?”