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"I travel around with my acoustic guitar and play a whole bunch of songs that I’ve made up. I was born and raised on a family farm outside of Elkhart, IN and I’m a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame. I have no idea what the future has in store for me. I’m stumbling down this path of life using my music as a compass. It is one of the few constants in my life, along with my family and faith."
Here's Zach's latest blog entry:
Happiness = Selflessness
Today I did something that I hadn't done in a while. Something that, in my younger years used to be ingrained in me and drove the majority of my actions...I unselfishly gave to another human being. I knew I would get nothing in return. I knew that it would not go to further my career, to gain notoriety and publicity. I gave to someone who could not give anything back to me. I never saw the person to which I gave, and I probably never will. He won't ever know that it was me who helped him. And it felt awesome!
Now, before I go any further, let me make this clear: Through this post, I am not being boastful or trying to espouse a "look at how awesome I am" attitude. This isn't a soapbox for me to enlighten you of my kick-ass-ness; rather, it is simply intended as a means for me to share with you an experience in my life today which helped me rediscover the joy that comes from selflessness.
For about the past year (or perhaps even longer), I have found that I have been growing more and more self-involved; almost every waking moment of my life has been focused strictly upon my music and my career. It has become an obsession. Tunnel vision. It has not been rooted in a desire to gain fame or fortune; rather my thoughts, actions, and goals have simply been intensely focused on creating music and finding ways to help sustain a long career doing what I love. Very pure intentions, but very self-centered and self-serving.
And so it was that I found myself in a rut the past month or so. So much time and energy focused strictly upon myself and my own ambitions. It's been poisonous to my mental and spiritual health and I believe it's been the source of my somewhat apathetic attitude toward life. I would explain my recent existence as a highly motivated and driven exterior shell pursuing a well-defined goal, while inside I have been empty and void of inspiration. I will grant that when I sit down to write, and when I am creating and playing music, I do feel very inspired. I feel equally inspired when I go to church and pray. But still, even with those sources of purpose/inspiration, something was missing.
The missing element was selfless giving; helping out another human being without any expectation of receiving in return. Today I cleaned out my closet and gave 2 high school kids about half of my clothes (a far cry from what Jesus told us to do, but a step in the right direction). They, along with their mother, checked into the local women's shelter here in town in order to escape their abusive father. The 2 boys had been wearing the same clothes for the past 3 days, and were the only articles of clothing they had to their name. From what the folks at the women's shelter said, the boys never complained about their situation. It's the type of story that breaks your heart, and as I sit here typing this, I am tearing up. There are countless stories like this happening in towns all across the country, and I pray that you never have to endure anything like this.
Obviously, after hearing their story, I went up to my room and began cleaning out my closet. I made piles of clothes to take to the boys (and the culture of excess in which we live reared it's ugly head...but I will save that rant for another post). Initially I was just going to give them a few old t-shirts, a pair of shorts, and a pair of pants and call it a day. But then I re-discovered the joy of giving and the happiness which flows from selflessness. I didn't just want to give them a few things, I wanted to give them as much as I could! It was a beautiful feeling and it rejuvenated me; it provided purpose and clarity through the veil of selfishness which had been clouding my soul. When I took those bags full of clothes to the women's shelter, I knew that the world was a better place. And it felt good. My source of happiness was coming from a place outside of myself. It wasn't a feeling of "wow, I am such an awesome person;" it was something much deeper. It sounds a bit "new age-y" but I felt connected to the universe, connected to my fellow man. I felt love. I experienced God. You can pray all you want (and I am certainly not knocking prayer) but there is something about getting your proverbial hands dirty and "doing" for your fellow man which prayer cannot provide. At least that has been my experience. I suppose that is why Mother Teresa did what she did.
Now I know that what I am saying is not revelatory, by any means. It has been preached by many throughout the years (e.g., Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Teresa...) but it is something that I experienced first-hand today. Finding happiness through selfless giving. All I did today was give some clothes which I didn't really need to kids who desperately needed them. I'm sure they still have many more deficiencies (psychologically, socially, spiritually, and physically) which need to be met, but at least a small portion of their troubles were quelled today. I certainly have a lot more selfless giving I can do (there is always more that can be done), and through my experience today I will certainly be re-evaluating many aspects of my life. I hope you will as well.
PS: In reflecting upon this post, I cannot help but question, "Is it really selflessness if I receive such gratification from doing so?" So many philosophical thoughts swirling around my head. I guess sometimes I/we can over-think things instead of just doing what feels innately "right" to us...
To read more entries in Zach's blog "A Modern-Day Troubadour" click (here).