“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle” (Benjamin Franklin).
THE POOREST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE NOT THE IMPOVERISHED BUT THE SELF-CENTERED. Their main concern is for themselves, and “their only contribution to the human family is to warm a seat at the common table” (F. Scott Fitzgerald).
Most of us, however, want to do better than that. Whether rich or poor, we want to give something back to the world around us. We understand the need to make some sort of contribution — a sacrifice of ourselves that will be conducive to the betterment of others.
We won’t be able to make a contribution that will alter the course of human history, of course. In the grand scheme of things, the world will be what it will be with or without our help. But the individuals whom we can help will have their load lightened even if our act of service does not transform the experience of humanity as a whole.
It’s a mistake to think that only the rich and powerful are in a position to contribute. If we measure the significance of a gift in terms of the sacrifice it requires, all of us have it within our power to give a great gift. Indeed, the “little” things that common folks do every day probably add more value to the world than all the “big” gestures made by the prominent people. So while we’re out there crusading against injustice and trying to “make the world a better place,” let’s ask whether those nearest and dearest to us are feeling any uplift from all of this bigheartedness of ours. Are they being neglected?
The truth is, it takes a good deal of wisdom and self-discipline, as well as benevolence and philanthropy, to be a good contributor to the world. For one thing, the needs around us are so many, we have to balance multiple responsibilities and prioritize the greater needs. Richard Chewning was exactly right when he said, “It takes wisdom and discernment to minister to people in need. We must look beyond the apparent and seek to meet the needs of the whole person.”
So we must be careful. But while striving for wisdom, we must not fail to act. Whatever contribution any of us are capable of making, we do not have unlimited time to make it. The clock is ticking.
“In the time we have it is surely our duty to do all the good we can to all the people we can in all the ways we can” (William Barclay).