You Can’t Torch Other’s Path Without Torching Your Own

Recently I attended an educational event at the San Diego Women’s Foundation. The topic of that day was “Inspired Philanthropy”. The first presenter talked about the physiological, mental and emotional effect of the act of giving, and in the end said the quote on the title. This is from Ben Sweetland and goes like this; “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own”. torch3When I heard her say this, what popped into my mind was this fact; If you want to be helpful to other people, you have to be the best you can be – whatever that might be. In other words, keeping the low profile and not exploring your full potential will make you be and feel like everyone else, and that might be comfortable thing to do for some people – especially if you are from Japan, where we have this saying “A nail that stands up will be pounded down”.

But if you think that your life has more meanings when you help other people, or contributing to the society in some way, then not going for what you want does not do anyone any favor.When people reach certain age, we start talking about “next generation”. What can we pass onto them? What do we want to tell them? Last night we were at Yo-Yo Ma concert at Balboa Theater. Prior to the concert, there was a lecture by David Amos, a classical music station host. At the end of his lecture, he said that it’s grandparents’ wonderful duty to introduce their grandkids to the world of classical music. Yo-Yo Ma is one of the world’s most renowned cellists, and he is contributing greatly to that cause. What if Yo-Yo Ma, at some point of his life, decided to hold back and didn’t go for what he could become? You might think, well his story is an exceptionally successful one – his talent was recognized when he was 6 years old. “Most people” would not make the cut. “Most people” are not talented enough, or fortunate enough to be able to make living just playing cello. That might be true. But that does not mean that love and passion for playing cello or classical music does not do anything for the world. As long as the individual truly loves it and feels joy from it, there are many ways to brighten the world by playing cello and touch people’s heart. Too often, we have this “All or Nothing” attitude about it and pressure our children to do what “makes sense” in our eyes, but that could cause them to lose their interests in things they care about, or lose touch with themselves to the point that they don’t know what they truly want to do in their lives. If we are not being the best we can be, it’s hard to truly help others and make a difference in the society.  It’s in everyone’s best interests to help others do what they want to do and be the best they can be, if you want to make positive changes in the world.

3 comments on “You Can’t Torch Other’s Path Without Torching Your Own

  1. “You Can’t Torch another’s Path Without Torching Your Own.”

    So true Etsuko. Nice post. Sounded like a great event you attended.

    Interestingly, your headline has two opposite meanings, which come out the same (?LOL).
    “Torch” in your expression means ‘to provide light’. But “Torch” also means to ‘destroy intentionally as through arson’.

    However it still comes out as a clever truism (of the self-defeating nature of ‘sabotage’) when viewed in this second context, not too disimilar to: “Blowing out another man’s flame doesn’t make yours shine any brighter, but less.”

  2. Thanks for the comment – wow! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if you can also say it like I wrote in the title, when I compared it to the full quote – but that was how she said it during the event. Reading your comment, what you said is also true. Brilliant! Interestingly enough, it kind of speaks about my situation. I’ll keep this in mind and just move forward. Thank you so much.

  3. Etsuko,

    Your story about Yo-Yo Ma reminds me of the song “Second Change” by Shinedown
    http://englishpatterns.com/community/832

    I’ve extracted these brain thoughts from your story:

    As long as the individual truly loves it and feels joy from it, there are many ways to brighten the world.
    Even though you may not feel you’re talented enough, it does not mean that your love and passion does not do anything for the world.

    If we are not being the best we can be, it’s hard to truly help others and make a difference in the society. It’s in everyone’s best interests to help others do what they want to do and be the best they can be, if you want to make positive changes in the world.

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