The most positive value in my life can be summed up in one word and that is service. In my youth (before I was thirty) I worked very hard; fourteen hours a day, six days a week, and I spent all that tremendous effort solely in pursuit of my own needs, my own wants, and my own ambitions. I thought that was the proper pursuit in life and that my own happiness was the proper goal.
Somehow however, happiness always eluded me. In fact, I eventually reached a point of total despair. I became massively, profoundly depressed, until one night I prayed to God to please end my suffering and take me home. In the dark that night a voice spoke to me. It spoke in my heart but I do not believe that that voice came from inside me. It said, “You have service yet to perform.” That was all. No list of specific chores or deadlines to meet was given to me. I only knew that I was supposed to be of service.
Since then I have spent my life trying to be useful to others in a great variety of ways from serving on the boards of non profits to picking up trash in nature preserves, to simply being a friend to people who are in need of a friend.
When I gave up chasing those desires that did not make me of greater use; when I started devoting my life to the welfare of others then strangely enough my own happiness began to bloom untended. I have come to believe that happiness is not a goal that you can ever reach, but rather, it is a natural byproduct of the act of helping others.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.