Eudaimonia is Aristotle’s ethical term. It is often translated as “human happiness,” but the more technical translation would be “human flourishing.” While Aristotle’s own conception of Eudaimonia comes with its own specific philosophy and historical context, I think it is a useful concept to frame this piece and my recent experiences. I believe that doing the work that I do, of focusing on cultivating specific virtues, such as compassion and kindness for others, via the Legacy Initiative and my efforts to serve those in need, has allowed me to flourish as a human being, and I have seen others flourish as well as a consequence. The point of Eudaimonia is not an emphasis on personal happiness and personal gain at the expense of others, however, and that is the biggest takeaway from my experiences. Human flourishing and the cultivation of virtue is a great representation of the ability of humans to truly grow and change the world for the better while also becoming better people, and I believe that is what I am slowly achieving.
I think in this day and age, it is very easy to take many things for granted. However, since my work with the Legacy Initiative, I have come to see that there are many people out there who still care and work to not take things for granted, and appreciate what they have, and share with others their many blessings. I know that since I have worked with Legacy, I have become a much stronger person, a much kinder person, a much more caring person, and all of this has made me feel truly blessed and feel truly inspired, to appreciate my life and to continue to share the blessings with others.
Indeed, discovering Legacy came at the cost of a lot of turmoil and despair and desperation. I had to experience many negative things with various people, before I discovered the warmth and graciousness and acceptance of Legacy.
Indeed, I have come a long way since I first tried helping the homeless, many years ago. Today, during roughly my fifth or sixth outreach, I was promoted to lead my own squad during the outreach. We took a route by the library, and I was amazed at many of the experiences that I had as I led the squad. One of the volunteers that I was working with ran into a homeless person who they actually knew from the past. Indeed, I was very touched to see the volunteers taking initiative, and engaging in open discussion and conversation with the many homeless people that we were serving. Definitely, the volunteers wanted to be there, and that is certainly the attitude that is required to do this kind of work. It is hard to make a difference, for instance, when you don’t care. However, I could tell that the volunteers I was working with were definitely making some deep connections with the people we were serving, and that was amazing to see. It inspired me because it reminded me why respect and dignity are really important principles to operate on all the time, and certainly not to take this for granted. When you personally try to operate on the principles of respect and dignity, for instance, you sometimes think that you are not having an impact or affect. However, whenever you see those principles acted in real life through other people, you realize that you are indeed making an impact, and I think that is really important to be aware of, especially in this kind of hard work.
I was amazed at the insight that I saw in the volunteers that I worked with. I got in really deep conversations with the volunteers, both philosophical and necessarily critical. Basically, our conversations boiled down to the notion of why we want to help others, and why it is important that we help others, even in a world that doesn’t seem to want that. I think as always, this is a good reminder of why we do what we do, and why we care. In the end, it would seem sometimes that our opinions of capitalism or social progress or politics don’t matter when it comes to serving others in need: We simply need to serve, and that is that.
When speaking sociologically, one of the many important points that was brought up by a volunteer was the blatant and yet sometimes undetected disconnect between the public perception of homeless people and the perspective of the homeless person himself. When we were talking to one of the people that we serve, it was interesting to think about the stereotypes that are leveled against the homeless, one of which is the stereotype that homeless people are lazy and they choose not to work. However, when we talked to the one person we served, he made it clear that he actually wanted to work, but that it was really difficult because of certain injuries that he had. This indeed is the disconnection referred to. The public sees a person as lazy, but the public doesn’t understand all of the complicated factors and variables that surround the life of the homeless person. I think this is extremely important to keep in mind, and is a powerful commentary on the complicated circumstances surrounding homelessness.
Indeed, it is very important that we break down the common stereotypes about homeless folk. Often, the media portrays homeless people in a negative light, but it is the objective of this nonprofit organization to show the homeless in a different light. When I talked to one person in Legacy, he told me how people who had previously internalized prejudices about the homeless were stunned and baffled at how kind and genuine the homeless people actually were in real life. This certainly debunked, at least for many people, the common stereotypes about the homeless. Indeed, I can’t stress how important this is. We should never seek to paint a group of people in a negative light. We should seek to see these people for who they really are, and we should seek to be forever compassionate and loving towards them, and treat them as part of our community … because they are indeed part of our community.
Indeed, I enjoyed this specific outreach particularly, because not only did I get to lead a group of enthusiastic volunteers, but I basically got to set the pace of what we were doing. This allowed for more meaningful interactions with the people that we served. It was definitely a very positive experience, and I would not trade it for anything.
As I have made clear, I have come a long way. A year ago, I never would have seen myself as leading a squad on an outreach. I in fact would not have seen myself doing outreach at all! I also wouldn’t have known that I was actually really good at doing outreach, because I had never been given the chance, and because other people did not believe in me.
But many people in Legacy believe in me, and they have shown that time and time again, and it has been remarkable and inspiring and has really encouraged me.
I think that credit must go where credit must go, and I know that I would not have been where I am now if it wasn’t for the leader of Legacy, Travis. Travis has really inspired me, in so many ways, which I will never fully be able to pay back. But it is an amazing gift. I am always humbled by Travis and his attitude, that he hasn’t really done anything at all, but I think that Travis tends to underestimate his generosity and his compassion, and how that affects other people, and how it inspires other people. Travis will be leaving for Hawaii, and I am really going to miss him when he leaves, but I know that he is going to do great things down in Hawaii. His plan is to start a new Legacy branch down there, and he will be able to touch so many lives while he is there, and continue his work. I believe that Travis leaving is definitely going to be hard for me, but I also know that Travis has made this decision for the right reasons. He is really going to make a difference, indeed, in Hawaii, and I am really excited to see where things go in the future; there is no telling where we will be in five years, but I am sure it will be spectacular, and all because we at Legacy share a vision of a better world.
I would of course say this is true for many other people in Legacy as well. More people than I could ever count. Legacy has inspired me in so many ways, and I will forever appreciate that. They have allowed me to shine in a way that I never thought that I could shine.
In other words: Eudaimonia at work.