Sometimes, Being “Used” Isn’t Such A Bad Thing: Lessons from Life’s Classroom
I had a conversation today with an elder that I really cherished. This person, an African-American born in 1930, allowed me and a colleague to ask questions about what his life experiences were like living and coming of age in the era of segregation so that his story could be shared with others as a part of a historical film project.
One of the final questions we asked was about what he was most proud of in his life, and why. His response was one that really touched me, and one that affirmed my belief in interconnectedness, reciprocity in relationships, paying it forward, and the philosophy of Ubuntu.
In addition to raising his children and being fortunate to see them grow into wonderful people who have started their own families, he mentioned being most proud of “being able to be used.”
He has reached a level of success in his life that is very significant, and during our time together, he made mention of the people who have helped him to grow and succeed personally and professionally.
This elder, who had become one of the best in his chosen field quoted the old adage saying that “to those whom much is given, much is expected.”
Still remaining very active in his profession and interests, he mentioned being most proud of the fact that he has been, and is still able to be “used” by others who might follow in his footsteps, helping them along, as he had been helped during his lifetime.
He talked about how important it was for him to have a focus on being of service to others, and how maintaining that focus has benefitted him greatly in his life.
Reinforcing his belief in another timeless saying, mentioning that “it is much better to give than to receive”, he noted that after looking back over his life and doing an honest assessment of the people he has had an opportunity to teach, mentor, or help in some other way, he found that in more cases than not, he’d learned more from them, than they did from him.
I found an important lesson and reminder in his simple, yet profound response that I won’t soon forget.
Sometimes, being “used” isn’t such a bad thing.
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW