“One of the greatest gifts of the martial arts is that they ultimately guide us to new levels of spirituality.”
— Joseph Cardillo, Be Like Water
Last night, I got a new belt. It is yellow.
For the past six months, I have been studying Chung Kuo Chuan with our children. (Here’s a picture of an exhausted beginner after his first lesson). Last night, I passed the first test, receiving the honor of a yellow belt.
It’s an activity in which we are not parent and child, but equals – what I have in endurance and persistence, the kids have in youth and vigor. For six months, we have worked diligently on basic punches, kicks, stretches, strength training, balance, breathing, and having fun. It’s been rewarding.
To reach yellow belt required passing a knowledge test and a physical test. It required study and practice. It required time.
The yellow belt is the symbolic reward for an investment in time. But more than that it is symbolic of the time I’ve spent with my children, studying, exercising, and learning.
We don’t always get a reward for spending our time well, and we certainly don’t get a yellow belt for helping out.
But maybe we should. If we could wear a colored belt displaying our level of generosity and compassion, maybe our society would give greater respect to those traits. Would you treat someone differently if you knew at a glance that they had achieved the “highest” level of giving?
It’s not a new idea. The rewards for generosity and charity are spelled out in the codices of every major religion. Each faith defines it’s own scoring system for the “good samaritan.” When an official of the church reaches certain “levels,” they start wearing different clothes in some religions. In some religions and cultures, lay persons pay symbolic respect with a bow to a person of higher spiritual rank. Symbolically identifying greater “givers” is an old idea.
Until the day comes when we can truly know a person’s level of generosity and compassion, know instead that the reward you get for giving your time is real. It’s an evolution in yourself, away from ‘self.’ It is a change in how you look at people, treat people, listen to people, and see people. It is a change in your willingness to take your reward in the success of others, in your patience, in your selflessness. It’s a change in your intent and your connectedness to the world. It’s a change in your value system.
Just because you are not given a new belt for giving your time to others doesn’t mean that you’re not getting a reward. Like in martial arts, the true reward for giving your time does not lie in the belt.
It lies in you.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Reported some old graffiti in the neighborhood that had not been reported. … Also went to martial arts. While I may have gotten a yellow belt, the real rewards were the change in me and the time spent with my children.
Congratulations on this great achievement, Eric! Probably you would have a black belt for giving time, volunteering and sharing your insights on this blog — keep up the good work! 😀
Many thanks, Natalie.