What really matters?
This is a question that I’ve been asking my entire life, and I strongly believe that contentment has absolutely nothing to do with the things we have or our social stature. We are only going to experience fulfillment by humbling ourselves at the feet of others through service.
I’m reminded of an instance back in 1999 when I was invited by the Aspen Institute to give a short talk about corporate responsibility in New Orleans.
In a quick 30 minutes, I gave a David Letterman-like top ten list of reasons why corporations should be involved with their communities. The audience seemed to respond positively to my comments, which was reassuring.
Afterwards, there was a dinner in the warehouse district of New Orleans in a penthouse condominium belonging to a developer of the district. I was awed by the luxury and the beauty of the condo. It was a beautiful night which allowed people to freely use the very large outdoor patio where a band was playing. Every room was filled with fine art and food.
As I milled around, a steady stream of people came up to remark about my talk. I got a sense of the distinguished group that was present.
A university president.
A former president of a Fortune 500 company.
A former assistant Secretary of State.
A senior healthcare executive.
What struck me, as it had a number of times before, was that these individuals were no different than the people I worked with day in and day out at the Church Health Center. They were neither smarter nor more interesting. For the most part, they did have a lot more money, but that did not make them happy.
Like all of us, they were looking for meaning in their lives and a sense of purpose which could make them happy.
Fortunately for them, they did not have to worry about the bare necessities of life. Food, clothing, and shelter would always be at-hand. They were surrounded by the best of everything.
In the end, though, those things are fleeting and unfulfilling. It was like the hotel where I stayed that time in New Orleans. A travel magazine conspicuously placed on the bedside table listed it as the second best hotel in the world. But as I looked around, all I saw were four walls with a bed and a bathroom.
My experience in New Orleans many years ago reinforced in my mind that my own search for happiness will only be fulfilled through the work I do for others at the Church Health Center. It is in this way that I will better know the love of God, which I feel certain is the only source of contentment and fulfillment.