Last month, a house was being built in the Uptown neighborhood — not by construction workers, but by the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter; the future Mayor of Memphis, Jim Strickland; and dozens of other volunteers. The volunteers, many of whom usually wear pin-stripe suits and sit at desks, were now wearing hard hats and standing on ladders.
It was a Habitat for Humanity Project, serving one of 445 families in Memphis. Nearly 30 percent of Memphis residents live in poverty.
Why, I wondered, would the president do this? He could be on the grass swinging a golf club, but instead he is in a blighted neighborhood of Memphis swinging a hammer.
“It’s kind of an equalizer for the better,” the president said at a press conference at the work site.
“Equalize what?” I wondered.
“When a Habitat project comes into a neighborhood and contributes to it … it opens up a way to love each other and have compassion for one another, and not to be proud or arrogant that you’re better than other people,” he told us.
Income equality is a divisive topic in our country, especially during the lead-up to the presidential elections. But President Carter was talking about an equality that does not cost us a penny. It is equality of our egos and our pride. It is sharing ourselves and our presence with others, who may not have as much knowledge, education, money, resources or opportunities.
Just as Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama exemplify compassion, as Gandhi and King exemplify nonviolent perseverance, and as Rev. Desmond Tutu exemplifies forgiveness, President Carter, for me, exemplifies humbleness.
Humbleness comes from the word humus, or the soil or earth which enriches others. In a world where arrogance often pervades, humbleness brings us down to earth.
In life we often do not realize we have choices. Compassion, perseverance, forgiveness and humbleness are choices. These human characteristics are not completely determined by our genes or by the experiences of childhood; rather, they are characteristics that can be nurtured each and every day. Often when we are compassionate or humble today, through our thoughts, speech and actions, we end up being more compassionate and humble tomorrow.
So I wondered: Does being humble have any benefit to the individual who exemplifies this characteristic? In a blog, Dr. Jeremy Dean, a psychologist and author, writes about the eight benefits of being humble. One study found that being humble led to higher grades. Another study found being humble was a predictor of better job performance. Humbleness leads to social benefits, self-awareness and personal growth and learning.
So I asked President Carter how we can spread humbleness to a larger population. How can we scale up to greater numbers of people this characteristic, which he embodies?
He referred back to why he was in Memphis, to work on projects like Habitat. We can share part of ourselves with others. And it doesn’t cost us a penny.
Source: Commercial Appeal