The purpose of life is to serve others

By Henrylito D. Tacio


“I shall pass through this world but once,” Stephen Grellet once said.  “Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show any human being, let me do it now and not defer it for I shall not pass this way again.”


We only live once in this world.  Each of us has a purpose.  We are put here in this world for a reason.   We can truly make a difference if we serve others.  That was what Jesus Christ for all of us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13).


Does the name George Washington Carver ring a bell to you?  He was a man who lived with purpose, goodness, and balance.  Born as a slave into a family of slaves, he struggled against tremendous odds to finally achieve a formal education.  After years of abuse, he did finish his master’s degree and was invited to accept a position with Iowa University.  It was a coveted position and no other black had ever been appointed to such a prestigious faculty in that university.  Other members of the faculty learned to love him and students eagerly sought to be in his classes.  Life was wonderful for him for the first time in his life.


Then, a letter arrived from Booker T. Washington asking the George to join together with him in a dream to educate the blacks of the South.  After some soul-searching, he resigned for his job to give himself to the dream of Booker.  Leaving the comforts of his prestigious position, he traveled to the parched cotton fields of the South to live and work and educate his starving people.  People were not only starved for food but for learning and the opportunity to do better.  Years of sacrifice and many insults followed but surely and slowly he started to make his mark.


Whenever he was questioned about his brilliance as a scientist, George always said that the good Lord gave him everything.  On unheard of characteristic was that he refused to accept money for any of his discoveries and would freely give those secrets to anyone who asked for them or their use!  Three American presidents would claim him as their friend and confidant.  Industries would vie for his services.


At one time, Thomas Alva Edison offered him a beautiful laboratory to be built to his specifications along with an unheard salary in his day, US$100,000 per year, if he would bring his services to the Edison laboratories.


When George turned down the very lucrative and enticing offer, some of his critics commented and questioned his motives.  He was challenged: “If you had all this money, you could help your people more.”  George’s reply was: “If I had all that money, I might forget my people.”


Charles Fillmore pointed this out: “The value of all service lies in the spirit in which you
serve and not in the importance or magnitude of the service.  Even the lowliest task or deed is made holy, joyous, and prosperous when it is filled with love.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life
that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping him or herself.  Serve and you shall be served.  If you love and serve people, you cannot, by any hiding or stratagem, escape the remuneration.”


The Golden Rule states: Do to others what you like others do to you.  We have to serve our fellowmen if we want our fellowmen to serve us in return.  Oftentimes, when I fly to another country, I usually meet people who don’t know their way at the airport.  Almost always, I help these people what to do.  In exchange, I tell them to help other people they meet along the way.


Horace Mann said it right, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self.   We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence.  The heart that goes out of itself, gets large and full of joy.  This is the great secret of the inner life.  We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.”

The Bible urges, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).   As Dick Gregory finds out, “One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.”


Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen knows this well.  “As a young doctor, I thought that serving life was a thing of drama and action and split-second judgment calls.  (It’s) a question of going sleepless and riding in ambulances and outwitting the angel of death.  A role opens only to those who have prepared themselves for years.  Service was larger than ordinary life, and those who served were larger than life also.  But I know now that this is only the least part of the nature of service. 


The American physician further explains: “That service is small and quiet and everywhere.  That far more often we serve by who we are and not what we know.  And everyone serves whether they know it or not.  We bless the life around us far more than we realize.  Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways:  the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition.  All it may take to restore someone’s trust in life may be returning a lost earring or a dropped glove.”


By the way, the epitaph on the tomb of George Washington Carver sums up his life in this planet: “He could have added fame and fortune, but cared for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”


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