It was five o’clock in the morning and I was on a crowded arena floor with a horde of others. I was tired, sore, and thirsty. I then remembered the smiling face of the child with cancer I had seen just a few hours earlier. I thought further and remembered the words of the author D. Elton Trueblood: “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” I heard this quote for the first time as my Business Ethics class and my freshman year at Penn State were coming to a close. As a future member of the business community, I see myself as an ethical and moral person. However, the course’s myriad guidelines and theories did not solidify in my mind until that spring day. My professor showed a slide with Trueblood’s quote and ever since, it has been part of my life.
Seeing this quote not only gave me a deeper understanding of the course, it led me to change my actions and to begin thinking differently. Often people act merely in their own interest, without thinking of the effects their actions have on others. Trueblood’s simple statement told me to think differently; it led me to think of the future, not only my own future, but the future of others as well. I believe my purpose on Earth and in life is to leave a mark of some kind. I want future generations to enjoy the effects of my current actions. I do not care if they remember my name, or even know I existed, I would just like to improve someone’s life. This change in thinking changed my behavior by leading me to partake in actions that are not in my own self-interest. My hope is that at some point, others will benefit from my action and realize that their life would be different without this past action.
I truly put this idea into action when I volunteered at the Penn State Dance Marathon, or THON, a fundraising event where students stay standing and dancing for 46 hours with no rest, to raise money for childhood cancer research and treatment. I was not a dancer, but a fundraiser, and at first, I was a bit annoyed at the fact that the event required such a large commitment. However, when I arrived there, all negative thoughts went away, and my mission became to help as much as I could. I took it quite seriously and remembered Trueblood’s words. Even when it was in the wee hours of the morning and many others on this campus were sleeping, I worked hard. For every dollar I raised, I felt better inside. Even if those children never know who I am, I want raising money to be like planting the seed in Trueblood’s quote, and their improved life to be like the shade.
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