As Mahatma Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped from his foot and landed on the track. The train was already pulling away from the station, and he was unable to retrieve his shoe. To the astonishment of his traveling companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the one he’d dropped. “Why did you do that?” asked an amazed fellow passenger. Gandhi smiled, “The poor man who finds that shoe lying near the track will now have a pair he can use.”

Gandhi did that sort of thing instinctively. His decisions were life-giving, and they had a ripple effect wherever he went, so much so that an entrenched British colonial empire was brought to its knees through his acts of nonviolence. As a man, Gandhi appeared to be so physically weak that it seemed a small breeze might knock him over. Yet he was so very strong, resilient, and integrity-tough. Why? Because he knew the difference between giving and taking away.

I’m sure you know individuals from both camps. Think, for a moment, of the people whose company you enjoy and cherish. Are they not men and women who are life-giving?

They are interested in you, they listen to you, they regard you as their friend, and their smile is a tonic. Then there are the takers—those who brighten up a room when they leave because they have chipped away at your self-esteem and left you weather-beaten.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The only gift is a portion of thyself.” In my counseling sessions, I see that many of us think we are giving up part of ourselves when we give of ourselves.

In fact, the opposite is true. One of the most effective antidotes for burnout and emotional exhaustion is to become a life-giving person and to stop demanding, threatening, pleading, cajoling, and bribing others to do our bidding. To gain inner healing, we must understand that loving attention paid to other people’s goals and dreams is the greatest form of compassion and caring.

We have a wonderful example to follow in the One who Said:

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

 I have come as a Light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in the darkness. (John 12:46)

 I am the Gate. Those who come in by way of the Gate will be saved and will go in and out and find green pastures. (John 10:9)

Inside each of us exists the necessary ingredients we need to help harness our fears, banish our exhaustion, and put us on the road to emotional health. We can each take a step outside of ourselves, and become a life-giver. What can you do today to show someone how much you care? It doesn’t need to be a major event, because it’s still the little things that mean the most.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 28 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depressionanxiety and others.