Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. – Booker T. Washington
What does that mean?
As is so often is the case, this Twitter friendly quote is just part of a longer quote. This is a slightly longer version of the quote:
“In meeting men, in many places, I have found that the happiest people are those who do the most for others; the most miserable are those who do the least.”
The quote is about the things which make people miserable or happy, narrow minded and blind or broad minded and visionary. Self-centered-ness and prejudice were the worst of the offenders.
The quote reminds us that happiness comes from within, in this case, from what we do to help others. Put in another way, the gift is in the giving. You become more by giving of yourself, and your happiness grows each time you do.
Why is giving of ourselves important?
By this I don’t mean giving someone a token gift. Nor do I mean giving someone enough to get them to go away. I am talking about engaging with the person and truly giving from the heart. Obviously there are far more people out there than we have time to help. We will have to pick and choose.
But we can help some, and not everyone wants our help. So be it. But if you want to be happy, you will have to do things to help others. It might be as simple as telling a story to a small child, or helping them with their homework. And there are people who wonder why grandparents are so happy?
By giving of ourselves, we feel useful and helpful. These are hard-wired parts of the human brain. Even dedicated introverts like myself have this need, and feel good when helping others. Yes, there are some who have hardened their hearts, like Ebenezer Scrooge, but they are fairly rarely encountered.
The opposite of giving of ourselves is selfishness. The full body of text from which the quote is an extract goes over in some detail how narrow minded and selfish people rarely are anywhere as happy as the rest of us. That is because they don’t give of themselves, and the rest of us do.
Where can I apply this in my life?
That would depend on where in your life you tend to be very self-centered or even selfish. Giving of ourselves does not mean we have to deprive ourselves. Everyone I have met has something in excess which can be shared with a person who is in need of that same thing. Money. Food. Wisdom. Love. Of what do you have enough, that you can share a little?
The question I would ask is what do you fear losing? I have found that giving some of that precious substance gives us a greater return than simple hoarding ever would. And we get to help another in the process, which is a great thing on its own. As an added bonus, we get a little happiness.
Not everyone is comfortable in a social situation. Some use blogs or other online or print media to help others without having to be with them. It also allows people far away to benefit from their help. And those of us who are naturally introverted can still help others without all that messy social interaction. Yech! 8)
Take a moment and think about some of the best moments of your life, and see how many involve you helping another person. It might be your best friend, your partner, or even a complete stranger. When I check my life, that is what I find in all the different parts of it, from work to play, from family to friends and all of the places in-between.
Now think of how miserable you have felt, and how much you did for others, or they for you. That is the final part of the longer version of the quote, and I have found it true in my life. These people are participating in the inward and downward spiral of negative feelings and emotions. And that is sad.
Having considered when and why you have felt good by giving of yourself, the question before us is how to best put this quote into action. As everyone is different, and every situation different as well, you will have to figure this out for yourself. But I urge you to take some time to consider it.
We can all do something to help others. Whether it is a cash donation to a reputable charity or relief organization or doing something in person, we can help make a difference. And we will feel better for having done so. I can’t wait to hear what you have done, and how your happiness was increased.
From: Twitter, @AR_Foundation
confirmed at : http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/washington/ch14.html From the book “Up from Slavery” Chapter 14, about 2/3 of the way down the page
Photo by Ian Kirk
For some odd reason, my ‘related articles’ app is still face down in the mud. I hope to have something that works by early next week…