Life's Most Persistent Question | TeenInk

Life's Most Persistent Question

December 18, 2011
By Birdsong PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
Birdsong PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
38 articles 1 photo 7 comments

How often do you think about impoverished people living around the world? What about even closer to home: how many times do you think about the homeless people who live right on our streets? Martin Luther King once said “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?”. I think we would all agree, yet in our everyday lives, the most pressing question seems to be how find time to cram studying for our upcoming science, socials, and math tests, not to mention stay up-to-date with our friends. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t realize exactly how important and easy helping others is.

People nowadays are increasingly becoming more self centered. Our lives are fast, busy, all about getting ahead. Helping homeless people isn’t going to move us from a B to an A, but as Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Now, what is the difference between success and value? I believe it is service. Success is great, but being someone who reaches out and cares for other people makes someone truly valuable. Many people talk about the meaning of life, and really, what is the purpose of us being put here if we don’t change the world for the better? The meaning of life is definitely not ‘get good marks, go to university, and get a job that pays out obscene amounts of money so we can spend it on Apple gadgets’. The people we most admire for their value aren’t millionaires, they’re people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. Our world has problems, there’s no denying that. Yet sadly people become so isolated in their own little worlds that they forget that there is a beyond out there.

The other thing that many people don’t realize is exactly how fun helping others is. So many people hear the word community service and immediately think of a huge time sacrifice, doing some kind of horrifying task involving dark backrooms of soup kitchens. That is so not true. There are so many different ways of helping out the community, which are fun, and have benefits to the person themselves. There is no more uplifting environment to be in than a group of people doing good deeds using their own time and energy because they feel passionate about an issue. Not to go into massive clichés about the warm and fuzzy feelings people get when doing community service, but it really is a heartening experience. One of my favorite books growing up was the Quiltmaker’s Gift. The main theme is generosity. Basically, a King had many, many possessions but he was not happy until he began to give them away. Once he realized that there was more to life than blue glass cats and merry go rounds, he found the joy of giving, and happiness in his life. This is the mentality that is so vibrant in a group of volunteers. Also, volunteering is a refreshing experience because it reminds all of us that there is so much more to life than our own problems. It is perhaps one of the few places where there really is no competition aspect: you don’t have to run faster, study harder, or practice more, it’s purely about who you are and what you do with what you’ve been given.

It’s also much easier than people might think to get involved. There are many charitable organizations that run volunteer programs. In fact, there is even a national holiday in honor of the man whose quote I mentioned at the beginning, Martin Luther King Day. But what sets this holiday apart is that instead of a day off, it’s a day ‘on’. People are encouraged to use this day to provide service to their community. From something as simple as cleaning a neighborhood park to a more intensive commitment such as becoming a mentor, the key is to give yourself in some way to help others. Service is an integral part of life that gives meaning to everything we do. When we’re gone, our good deeds will continue to have an impact on the world. When we peer outside our own lives to open up and care for others, when we listen to truths that are so often hidden, when we spend some fraction of our lives changing the world, we fulfill life’s most persistent and urgent question. So what are you going to do for others today?

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