I believe that people should invest not in things, but in other people.
There are over six billion people in the world, and with this many people, there are billions who live in poverty, who lack proper medical treatment, whose homes have been destroyed by natural disasters or village raids. People in poverty are found all over the world – not just in developing countries. People who are in need of help are everywhere, and people with the time, money, and ability to help are numerous as well, but the number of people who are willing to help is much smaller. When people focus on building their own bank account, saving up for a bigger and better plasma screen television, and buying unnecessary things like expensive cars or $300 jeans, they only invest in material objects purely to feel superior and better about themselves. Little do these people know that the same satisfaction can be achieved from lending a helping hand or feeding those in need.
The university I attend has a great program called Alternative Service Breaks which allows students and faculty to go to places across the country, and the world, to help out and make a difference. This past March, I went to a very small town in Texas called Smith Point, which had been hit by Hurricane Ike in September 2008 and is where I spent my Spring Break. I was put with nine other people, and we came together as a group with one common interest: to sacrifice a spring break filled with partying and much drinking for one where we worked eight or nine hours a day putting others’ needs before our own.
The main task for the week was to build a new barn for this couple whose previous barn and house were both destroyed during the hurricane. They were living out of a trailer and using a friend’s washer and dryer to do laundry. One girl asked Jacquie, the wife, if she was upset about losing everything. Her response was simply that she had not lost everything. She still had her husband whom she loved, and he was all she needed. Everything else, she told us, was just things. The barn my group and I ended up completing became the new home of Jacquie and Phil’s tractor, lawn mower, and a new washer and dryer for all the community to use.
My trip to Smith Point, Texas forced me to view my future and where I am going in life very differently. I now feel that a life in which I work purely to benefit and better myself is obscure. I believe that everyone can use their personal passions, strengths, and desires to help and better other people. Invest not in things, but people.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.