I was speaking with a young friend I’m mentoring over coffee the other day and was struck by something.
The younger generations of Americans, and perhaps a good majority of Americans as a whole, don’t see their lives as citizens of this wealthy and lucky land as an honor and a responsibility with which they are entrusted to do something to contribute.
JFK famously said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Now the common creed of American life seems to be:
“Ask not what you can do for your country, family, friends, church, neighborhood, God, or city, but what can everyone else do for you?”
What JFK knew and the founding fathers knew, was that for a country to be free and successful, the people needed to be virtuous. This is one reason why, though some of the founders like Jefferson and Franklin, who were not particularly religious were nonetheless big supporters of religion. Religion forces man’s selfish tendencies to be put on the backburner in place of a communal good.
A community of people trying to get what they can from others, or unwilling to forgive or pitch in and help out is not healthy.
Are you that man or woman, when it’s your time to contribute, you’re nowhere to be found? When they throw me in the grave, I want to look back and say I left it all on the table and tried to live and give fully, though I know I’ll make mistakes and fall short at times.
Real joy and peace comes from extending ourselves for some purpose or for someone.
The world health itself comes from the world healing. What exactly are we healing as we become healthy?
We are becoming healthy by learning to set our ego aside. This is our Ikigai, as the Japanese would say, our reason for being.
Back at the coffee shop, as my young friend and I sipped our coffees, I looked at him and I said:
“If you want to live a good life, and look at yourself in the mirror and be at peace, then do the opposite of what most people do, and you’ll be fine. You’ll be healthy.”
When it’s your turn to pitch in, pitch in.
When most people are too afraid, speak up.
When most people are talking over one another, be quiet.
When most people are criticizing, try to see the good.
When most people are saying everything is good, try to see the obvious problem that no one wants to admit.
When most people try to spend for happiness, enjoy the simple things and save.
When most people are afraid to do the right thing, do it even if it’s hard.
When most people watch TV, read.
When most people eat mindlessly, thank God you have been blessed with great company and food. Eat drink, and be merry in gratitude.
When most people seek glitz and noise, seek silence.
When most people hold grudges, forgive.
When most people quit, don’t give up.
When most people don’t know when to quit, move on and try something else.
When most people talk, listen.
When most people don’t listen, forgive them. They’re asleep. They can’t help it.
When most people try to please by being somebody they’re not, find people who accept you the way you are.
When most people blame, try to change yourself.
When most people think they’re perfect, admit and work on your faults.
When most people are lazy, work hard.
When most people are working hard for no reason or for the wrong reasons, work hard for the right reason. And be happy for what you’ve been given.
When most people won’t think, contemplate.
When most people are prejudiced, try to see the other point of view.
When most people try to put up emotional walls, try to tear them down.
When most people eat fast food, cook at home.
When most people drive, walk.
When most people hurry, slow down.
When most people procrastinate, do the first things first.
When most people take, give.
When most people shame you for getting “uppity”, have the courage to teach them the error of their ways: Be the bigger person. *This is huge.
When most people are inside, go outside.
When most people are cheering for heroes on movies, TV, or at arenas, go and become one yourself.
When most people are making excuses, don’t.
When most people lie to themselves and others, have the courage to tell the truth.
When most people are being proud, be humble.
When most people are followers, lead.
When most people won’t follow, acknowledge legitimate authority, be humble, and follow.
When most people are talking on and on about themselves, take the time to really get to know someone else by asking questions and showing them you care for them.
When most people hate, let it go.
When most people are asking “What can my country do for me?” ask “What can I do for my country?”
As we finished up our coffees and the hot April sun started to shine out on the patio I summed it up:
“If you want to be healthy, if you want to be whole and experience joy, if you want to feel real happiness, do the opposite of what most people do- give and love and you will be truly free and truly fine.”
“Trust me”, I told him, “I’ve been ‘most people’ before, we all have, so I know exactly where they’re coming from.”
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