“I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live.”
— Albert Schweitzer
When asked to express in one word the key to happiness, Confucius replied, “It’s altruism.” And what is altruism? It is a total orientation away from self to the good of others, to the sharing of the joys and sorrows of the whole world.
In serving others, we feel how similar we are as human beings, bound and interconnected as we are by a shared feeling — an emotion or an understanding of something that is often inexplicable. It is a feeling that washes away the dust of everyday life from the soul.
All great men and women of history have been great practitioners of the S-factor — “S” for service to society. Albert Einstein emphasised that it is a higher destiny to serve than to rule. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “We are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature.”
Working for the poor gives us inner strength. It energises the “feel good” hormones so that we feel love and joy pulsing through our veins. When we reach out to others, we learn of a universal human hunger — to be needed. It makes us become more accepting, less judgmental and kinder to ourselves and others.
Deep in our hearts, most of us yearn for our lives to be useful. Faces that smile as a result of a helpful gesture we have extended provide an inner joy of an intensity that is far greater that any material reward can provide. You can have all the wealth and the health in the world, but unless you do something for the poor, you can never achieve real happiness.
If one concentrates on selfless service to others, this duty can become a deity and keep our hearts and minds pure and clean. In whatever station of life we are placed, we can do this.
It is class-less and creed-less The great savants have emphasised time and again that even the most extraordinary attempts to serve God would remain fruitless if men were indifferent to the pain and misery of their fellow beings.
Though our contributions may be small, we can perform our tasks with dignity and do it with a spirit of altruism. Our talents may not be great, but we can use them to bless the lives of others. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts of selfless individuals who have (mostly) been guided by noble impulses.
When we are able to shift our inner awareness to see how we can serve others and make this the central focus of our life, we find ourselves in a position to understand how the work of so many insignificant and invisible people has brought prosperity to our world.
A unique feature of our social bond is that most of those who give will probably never meet those whom they give to. The motivation isn’t because of kinship rooted in socially constructed value, shared culture or common heritage. People are not solely motivated by a desire to share direct kinship; rather, they give without condition or qualification. We give simply because it is the right thing to do.
Moin Qazi is a well-known banker, author and Islamic researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org...