If you are feeling that way sometimes, here’s a timely advice from Rabbi Harold Kusher: “The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought to other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.”
I like that. It’s a timeless quote that should be a good reminder for the rest of our lives. We need to be generous to others – especially in times of troubles. St. Francis of Assisi stated, “All getting separates you from others; all giving unites to others. Poet W. H. Auden joins the bandwagon by saying, “We’re here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.”
In some instances, by helping others, you may also help yourself. I was reminded of the story of an American man who was hiking in the mountains. He was taken by surprise in a sudden snowstorm and quickly lost his way. He knew he needed to find shelter fast, or he would freeze to death.
Despite all his efforts, his hands and feet quickly went numb. In his wandering, he literally tripped over another man who was almost frozen. The hiker had to make a decision: Should he help the man, or should he continue in hopes of saving himself?
In an instant, he made a decision and threw off his wet gloves. He knelt beside the man and began massaging his arms and legs. After the hiker had worked for a few minutes, the man started to respond and was soon able to get on his feet. Together, the two men, supporting each other, found help.
The hiker was later informed that by helping another, he had helped himself. His numbness, he was told, vanished while he was massaging the stranger’s arms and legs. His heightened activity had enhanced his circulation and brought warmth to his hands and feet.
Of course, you have to serve others. But don’t forget to serve your family, too. Never neglect them. Parents may tell their children, “I am doing all these for you.” That’s a cliché. You can always mix business, serving others and parenting.
When you look at certain famous families, it is puzzling that some children turn out to be so much more successful than others. Why, for instance, did Joseph Kennedy’s sons excel while Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s did not? Certainly FDR had as good an understanding of power and how to use it as did Joe Kennedy. Part of the answer to that riddle may be found in FDR’s remark that an appointment was always required if he wanted to see his father.
One day, when the boy had a pressing problem, FDR listened to his son but never stopped working at his desk. When the boy stopped talking, FDR reportedly said absently, “Glad you could drop by,” and the conversation was over.
Contrast that with Joe Kennedy’s ferocious interest in his children’s lives. For all his shortcomings, Kennedy’s loyalty to his children was absolute. “My business is my family and my family is my business.” American President John F. Kennedy once told Steve Smith, “You know, when I was just trying out for the freshman team for some of those swimming meets, my dad was always there. He was always there. He did the same for all the kids.”
Serve yourself. Serve your family. Serve others. That’s the main purpose of our lives. A man asked Dr. Karl Menninger, “What would you advise a person to do, if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”
Most people expected him to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist.” To their astonishment, he answered, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”
The service we render for others, according to Wilfred Grenfell, is really “the rent we pay for our room on this earth.”
Oscar-winning actor George Burns (of The Sunshine Boys distinction) aptly reminds, “When you stop giving and offering something to the rest of the world, it’s time to turn out the lights.” Yes, never stop what you ought to do in life: to help and serve others.
Whatever talent, time, or treasure you have, are you willing to share them to others? You may not know it but whatever you do or share might change the lives of others. New York Times bestselling author John C. Maxwell writes: “My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done. Leave countless marks of good or ill, e’er sets the evening sun. This, the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray: Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.”
Nathan C. Schaeffer puts it succinctly: “At the close of life, the question will not, How much have you got? but How much have you given? Not How much have you won? but How much have you done? Not How much have you saved? but How much have you sacrificed? It will be How much have loved and served? not How much were you honored?”
Ponder on that thought!
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