Section 1: FOCUSING ON GOODNESS
LIFE IS ABOUT “THE OTHER GUY”
Sometimes We Get Things Backwards
This topic is one of the hardest life development concepts to grasp, and even harder to put into practice. For some, caring about others seems to come naturally. But for others, self-focus gets in the way of truly caring about other people. Hopefully, this lesson will help you take a closer look at yourself in this regard and decide which of these two alternatives describes you best.
An effort made for the happiness of others
lifts us above ourselves.
Lydia M. Child
Life Is So Much More than “Me”
It’s normal to look out for ourselves. We have things we need to do and things we want to accomplish. Plus, we want to be happy. As a result, we tend to focus on ourselves believing that will help us achieve this happy condition. No question, looking out for ourselves is important. But to achieve real happiness—and the feeling that our life has meaning—we have to learn to focus a large part of ourselves on “the other guy.”
The logic for this external focus lies in the explanation of why we are here in the first place. Yes, there are reasons starting with the union of a sperm and an egg, plus the blessing of God
that launched our journey. And, our parents were responsible for us in our early years, but we soon reach an age when we take over the responsibility for our life and the choices concerning how we will live it. There are many questions we then have to answer for ourselves, but one of the most important ones is this: Why am I here?
Whatever the answer to this question turns out to be for you, I submit that the correct answer will have a lot to do with “the other guy.” In other words, happiness and meaning in life aren’t derived exclusively from what we do for ourselves but rather the extent to which we use our life to help others.
Having lots of material things in life may be nice, but nowhere near as fulfilling as knowing you used your life to make someone else’s life better…that you helped others and made a difference in their lives.
And now, after everything, I know this:
There is a reason I am here and that reason is bigger than me.
Morgan Harper Nichols
Now to the Question: Why Am I Here?
Obviously, this is a very important question. The answer provides us with the logic as to why life works better when we include “the other guy” in the way we choose to live. While I can share my thoughts and beliefs about this question with you in this lesson, the ultimate answer is one that you will have to determine for yourself. However, I urge you, regardless of your age, to give some careful thought to this question as its answer can make a major difference in the way you live your life.
While other things may be true as well, I have come to believe, and strongly so, that God’s Spirit works in the world through people like you and me. In other words, I see God’s Spirit “at work”
in the world through the doctor who works to makes us feel better, through the farmer who works to provide us food, through the contractor who builds or repairs our house, and through literally thousands of other roles that people fill to help us and others have better and more enjoyable lives. I believe that the helpful things that happen in this world are inspired by God’s Spirit as it works through the actions (“choices”) and skills of people to help others.
So, it’s focusing on “the other guy” that presents you and me with opportunities to carry out God’s work in the world in some special way. It’s focusing on “the other guy” that provides us the opportunity to channel our interests, abilities, and feelings into a specific role that will benefit others. It’s focusing on “the other guy” that gives us the opportunity to achieve a feeling of satisfaction with the way we live our life. Without this focus on “the other guy,” life can turn out to be a pretty empty experience indeed.
This perspective about “the other guy” is extremely important, especially as you determine what you will do with your life…or as you make adjustments to the life you are currently living. However, the younger you are, the more difficult you may find the task of embracing and activating a real concern for others as you go about your day-to-day activities. If this is the case with you, I recommend you “road test” helping someone and see how it makes you feel.
To perform such a road test, ask someone to help you identify an individual, couple, or family in your town or neighborhood who needs some help. It could be mowing their yard, driving them to the grocery store, or delivering a meal to them one day each week. It could be financial assistance if you are able to that. Whatever it might be, find a way that you can help in some special way. After you do this several times, sit down with someone whose opinion you value and discuss how the recipients responded to your assistance and how being helpful in this way made you feel. This may be an important step in answering that question…why am I here?
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
It All Depends on the Choices We Make
It’s our choices that determine if and how we will use our life to help and benefit “the other guy.” This is why our choices are so important; for if we choose to live in a selfish way and focus most of our efforts and energies on ourselves, we can totally miss out on the satisfaction of helping others. So, don’t wait. Start now making some choices every week that allow you to reach out and help “the other guy” in your own special way.
Oseola McCarty was born in Wayne County, Mississippi, in 1908. She had to quit school in the sixth grade to help her family make ends meet and to care for her aunt and grandmother. She took in laundry and ironing charging $1.50 a bundle. She ran her laundry business for 75 years and served multiple generations of clients. Over the years, her laundry service charge increased to $10.00 a bundle, and she was able to save money. “I would put most of it in savings, it just accumulated.”
At the age of 87, she worked out a plan with her banker to provide funds for her care and provide a small inheritance for a few members of her extended family. What was left, $150,000 of
her $250,000 life savings, she gave to the University of Southern Mississippi and designated it for a special scholarship fund. Having very little formal education, she hoped her money would help talented African-Americans achieve a degree. Word spread quickly about what she had done, and many others contributed to The Oseola McCarty Fund as well.
Oseola ultimately received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Clinton, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Harvard, and was one of Barbara Walters’ Ten Most Exciting People of 1995. In October of 1996, her book Simple Wisdom for Rich Living was released. A review of the book in Newsweek said that McCarty “reminds us that even the humblest among us can leave the world a better place for having walked on it helping others.”
Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. If Oseola McCarty could make the choices to help others in these very special ways…with their laundry and ironing needs for those many years
and then with a large portion of what she had saved to make sure her family was okay…surely you and I can make the choice to find ways to help “the other guy” in some special way as well.
The human being who lives only for himself finally reaps nothing but unhappiness.
Selfishness corrodes, while unselfishness ennobles and satisfies.
Don’t put off the joy derived for doing helpful, kindly things for others.
B. C. Forbes
Identify someone you have noticed helping others in special ways.
How would you describe the impact they have had on other people’s lives?
To what extent have you been using your life to help others?
Give yourself a grade…A, B, C, D or F.
What does your grade indicate to you?
Do you know of someone in your neighborhood or community who needs some extra help?
Are there things that you could do for one of these people to make their life better?