Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Three Questions

I have devoted a lot of time over the last several years thinking about my purpose in life. What can I do to make this world a better place?  I don't feel a need to be known or remembered in some great way, but I would like to feel like I have made some positive difference in this hurting world.  It is really quite overwhelming when you begin to look deeply into the great suffering in the world. I think, "Where to begin?" and "How can I even begin to make a dent?"

A few months ago, I came across a children's book that helped me put things in perspective. It is called The Three Questions and is is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy.  In the book, a young boy is pondering how to be a good person. He is searching for answers to three questions:

When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

During his quest, he happens upon an injured panda bear and her cub and rescues them from certain death. With the help of a wise old turtle, he realizes how important it was that he was there at the right place and time.  The turtle tells him,
"Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing to do is to do good for the one who is standing by your side."

This really struck me. While I have always believed that family is the first priority and that raising my children is the most important thing I will ever do in my life, I guess I felt like maybe that was not enough.  However, I am beginning to feel that it is.  That doesn't mean that I won't help other people. It just means that my life energy will be spent close to home. We don't have to look far to do good. There are always opportunities to help people right at your doorstep.

 So, I will give to charity. I will volunteer in my community. I will let my kids see what I do and hope that they live their lives in a way that helps others as well.  But, I won't be searching high and low for ways to help the most people. I will focus on helping individuals.

I am reminded of the tier system of waiting tables at the restaurant where I worked for several years. First priority: take care of your tables. Second priority: take care of your neighbors' tables. Third priority: take care of all the tables in the restaurant. It may seem like a silly analogy, but I think it can work in our lives.  Do all we can for the people we love. When they are taken care of, do for the people in our own community. When we feel we've done what we can there, help strangers and people we may never meet.

When I think about my life in this context, I feel that I have great worth, and that is essential in achieving peace within one's self.

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