Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been. When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day. What follows is one piece of that advice. I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
The world should be a better place for your having been here. That’s the real point of life. And where better to serve others than in your chosen profession?
The pursuit of money is all well and good. But if it only served to enrich you personally, what good would it be? More to the point, what good would you be?
I once met a very wealthy elderly lady who gave me a tour of her palatial home. It was filled with many exquisite objects, including original pieces by famous artists. As I complimented her on all the beautiful things, she replied sincerely, “They are lovely, aren’t they? After all, I think the only real point of life is to collect as many beautiful things as possible.”
What a tragedy. Here was a woman with the means to do a great deal of good with her wealth, yet she didn’t even realize it. Ebenezer Scrooge had nothing on her.
Contrast that conversation with the story of Mother Teresa. Born in Macedonia, a small country in southeastern Europe, she became a nun at the age of eighteen. For over 61 years, she worked in the slums of Calcutta, India, caring for some of the poorest, most neglected people on the planet. In 1950 she started the Missionaries of Charity, an order that serves the poorest of the poor throughout the world. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Today, her order and its supporting groups—over one million coworkers worldwide— serve poor and outcast people across the globe.
When she died, penniless, in 1997 at the age of eighty-seven, Mother Teresa was in many ways the richest person on Earth.
Sure, it’s great to have money. As Sophie Tucker said, “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.” Just remember that there is more than one kind of wealth. If you ever have to choose—and you might—I highly recommend the non-money kind.