By Sophie Scott
Sometimes you meet an amazing person, who helps you reframe your own thinking.
That happened to me recently, when I met Rosie Batty.
She's well known to many of you but for readers outside Australia, Rosie came to prominence for the most devastating of reasons.
Her son Luke was killed by his father, Rosie's estranged partner.
They had suffered family violence and when tragedy struck, Rosie was determined that Luke's death was not going to be in vain.
"I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It happens to anyone and everyone," Rosie said.
She established a foundation in Luke's name and has campaigned relentlessly to raise community awareness and put pressure on government organisations through education, advocacy and campaigning on family violence.
“My belief is a tragedy gives you an opportunity to make a difference. I’ve always admired people who do that”, she said.
I talked to Rosie at a charity dinner we hosted to raise money for her foundation and asked her how she managed to transcend the tragic death of her son.
"There are bad days, or bad moments in a day when it becomes too much and the people who are closest to me know that," she said.
"But I know that the work I am doing, focusing on family violence, can change behaviour."
Talking to Rosie, I was struck by her courage and resilience.
And it really got me thinking.
What is it that allows someone in the depths of grief to be able to harness their inner strength, like Rosie has, to help others in a similar situation?
I remembered what my research into happiness, while writing my book 'Roadtesting Happiness" had shown about the value of living a meaningful life and helping others.
Blind and deaf Helen Keller wrote so eloquently "so much has been given to me: I have no time to ponder that which has been denied."
It seems intuitive that helping others would make you feel good.
Most of us act in our own interests, most of the time.
But altruism and helping others means we can act with the interests of others in mind.
Altruism can help us realise how alike we are, that we are all searching for the universal truths.
Helping those less fortunate can help put our own problems in perspective.
Buddhist philosophy suggests that altruism lessens our own suffering.
When researching "Roadtesting Happiness", the book I wrote when I was struggling to come to terms with my mother's death, I was deeply moved by the stories I found of people and their unselfish desires to help others.
Like Rosie, many people I interviewed were not acting out of a desire to be seen to be doing good.
Instead, they had a heartfelt wish to help others, and like Rosie Batty, they have used their strength and abilities to aid those less fortunate.
“If Luke hadn’t died in such an extreme way, I’d just be one of those ‘family violence’ people no one listens to”, Rosie Batty said.
But through tragedy, Rosie, like many others, has found a way to act on their beliefs and make the world a better place, something we can all do, even in small ways.
How has helping others helped you?
To find out more about Rosie and her work here.
For more about happiness and altruism here.
Watch the Australian Medical Association's powerful, new video on tackling domestic violence here.
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