I got an invitation and went last night to an underground music venue that is in an old grocery store/ dude's living room. It is called Grocery on Home. There were three performances, the last of which was bluegrass/ folk- awesome! Check them out- Tumbleweed Wanderers. You will be glad you did.
The place was full, with people B-ing their own B and more than one cheese plate at a tiny kids' table filled with adults. The guy whose home it is passed a corned beef box and asked for a $20 donation from each person, which went directly to the artists to pay for their traveling expenses, etc. He made zero dollars on this little venture.
When we left, there were plenty of dirty dishes for him to wash and the place was arranged like a music venue, not a living room.
I started thinking about the things I do simply because they are meaningful to me, I teach an English as a Second Language class to the staff and the monk at the Buddhist Center near me where I meditate. Their English is really improving. I spend a little money getting things for class and I make zero dollars on it. I have no intention of stopping any time soon. I also teach a donation for charity yoga class once a week at the local metaphysical center. I have between zero and four students most weeks, but I have made some incredible friends.
My cousin is a youth minister at a progressive Baptist church in town. I volunteer with him and the neighborhood kids after school one day a week, helping with homework, troubleshooting computer problems, coaching social skills. The kids are inner-city kids with very little structure and adult supervision. We took them to the zoo a couple of weeks ago. I had such a beautiful time with them.
In my twenties and the first half of my thirties, I worked constantly. I spent almost all my time working and thinking about work. I became successful at my job, but then my life sort of fell apart because of lack of meaning. I found myself lost inside my success and it was meaningless to me.
Now that I approach forty, I make sure to do something meaningful and something fun every day. I work, of course. I like to work. I have always liked to work. I just give myself a chance to like something else, too. I really look forward to my volunteer days. I have them spread throughout the week. In Buddhism, there is a term for doing things that are good. It is "Bun" or "Bunya" (sounds like Boon). It translates roughly to "merit". The more bun you have, the more your life sort of glows and inflates and you cultivate happiness and good luck.
In Christianity, the concept of tithing ten percent of your money is venerated. I am at a point where I feel nervous to commit ten percent of my money, but I find it easy to commit ten percent of my time. If a regular work week is forty hours, I tithe four hours a week to my volunteer work. I was discussing this with a friend last night and she said, "think what kind of world we would have if everyone did that!"
I find that I am less compelled to shop for things I ultimately do not need since I started volunteering. Instead of going and spending lots of money on things or entertainment, I spend time planning my classes or doing something else creative. I am more helpful generally. I listen when people close to me ask for help. I cannot always help them, but now I almost always try. That makes the real difference.
I love that this guy made his home a music venue because music is meaningful to him. I loved being there, knowing that I was part of a living tradition of art that is not going anywhere, no matter what else happens. Music, art, education, beauty, health- these are the things we build our world out of. They make life worth living.