Are we helping ourselves or others when we help others?
Rabbi Josef Yitzchak as a young man told his father the leader of the Jewish world Rabbi Shalom Dovber “Today I did a favor to someone but I did it with my full heart;” in other words fulfilling the Chassidic dictum to truly empathize, not just mechanically do good because it is what you aught to do.
You are making a mistake my son Rabbi Shalom Dovber replied “you did yourself the favor.”
In other words – and this was highlighted by an incident in my life today – often God brings to us people who need something from us or we become concerned with a situation but out of selfishness or perhaps just plain laziness we do nothing about it – do not think that you have simply let someone else’s problems continue rather you have let your own problems continue.
A man once was throwing boulders from his field onto the road in ancient Israel, a prophet walking by said to him “why are you throwing boulders that don’t belong to you, onto the road that does.” Not getting the point he continued his merry way until once he lost everything (recession) he was forced to travel the road whereupon he stumbled upon one of the boulders he had carelessly tossed.
Similarly the road of life, the journey of interactions, is not random, though it may seem so; every person you come in contact with was designed not for you to help them but for you to merit your own sustenance, happiness, wealth and prosperity in reaction / return for helping them.