Monday, April 4, 2011

Making Your Contribution - The Secret to Happiness?


"O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life"

- Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

These days I think a lot about "making my contribution to the lives of others". It is on my mind when I wake up in the morning.  It is something that comes up in my prayers and is a regular topic in my conversations with friends and family.  This notion of "making my contribution" guides my thinking, helps meorganize my priorities, and shapes my perception of success.

"For it is in giving that we receive..."  

If there is a secret to happiness, this is it.  The happiest people I know are those who are actively engaged in discovering and delivering their unique contribution to the lives of others. Talk about people who are "switched on"!  It is amazing to behold.  

One young mother I know is developing a support network for young moms like her through personal contacts and social networking. It is fantastic to watch her blossom as she learns more about how to add value to her ever-expanding circle of mommies. Another friend is currently being trained to teach "Art For Healing" techniques which greatly help people process their feelings and their faith. Still another just said "yes" to coaching his daughter's softball team after the original coach was unable to continue.  Although he is new at coaching softball, his contribution to the team's well being is already being felt!
  
I have lived 5 1/2 decades and, for some reason, I have more people like this in my life than ever.  I feel like a rich man.  Hanging around with "givers" is endlessly inspiring.  My studies and experience tell me that contribution is the central task of the "second half" of life.  

Being a "second-halfer" myself and having so many peers in this category may account for some of why I seem to be surrounded by so many generous souls.  And yet, it is not all about age for I know some remarkable young people who value making their contribution to others at a high level as well.

The outstanding characteristics shared by the majority of "givers" I know - whether younger or older - is their vibrant relationship with God and their ongoing pursuit of spiritual maturity.  When an entire household is filled with the grace it is a glorious thing!  I think, for example, of the two host families that open their homes to us for our Sunday house church and our Friday night Bible study group. Week after week they share their trust, their living space, their resources and their time with us at an extraordinary level.  The children in these host families range in age from very young to mid and upper teens.   You should see how they join their parents in their generosity and servanthood towards us so that we don't feel so much like "guests" as "family".   

"O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love

It is getting clearer and clearer that contemporary society offers two competing world views.  One is the consumer mentality that frames life as a race to arrive at the finish line with the most "toys", the most applause and the most power over others.  Those possessed of this worldview are never satisfied.  Not only is their cup never full, it simply has no bottom.

The other is a 
contributor mentality that frames this lifetime as a gift that will soon enough come to conclusion.  Therefore, their goals are not about self-aggrandizement but generosity of hand and heart.  Their passion is to live with purpose - to do what they were made to do - whatever that may be. This, of course, is the biblical worldview so clearly annunciated by Jesus in His continuing call for us to be people who are  "rich towards God" (Luke 12:21).    

“For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and  it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life"

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