“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
— Albert Schweitzer
I always enjoy conversations with students about their plans after high school. I find it fascinating to hear about the various fields and professions they want to pursue. During these conversations, I have started asking the students why they want to invest their life in that specific field. The responses to this question have been interesting to say the least.
Responses to the “why” question usually seem to fall into two categories. Some speak about the opportunity the career will offer them- living a life pursuing their passions, helping others, and giving them the opportunity to serve. The other was much more simplistic…I am pursuing this field because it is a means to money.
As I wrap up discussing Service as a component of Leading with L.E.S.S., I think this is an important idea to think about. Why do you do what you do? Is it a means to a paycheck or is it truly about serving others. I believe happiness (your everyday, run-of-the-mill, I am happy) is about a “me” attitude, and that can easily be found in chasing fleeting moments of joy — which a paycheck can buy. Where, fulfillment comes from a “serving others” attitude, which is a much harder place to invest your time because the payoff is rarely instant and more often than not less lucrative. So, why do we serve?
This idea reminds me of a line from the movie Bucket List.
“It’s difficult to understand the sum of a person’s life… Some people would tell you it’s measured by the ones left behind, some believe it can be measured in faith, some say by love, other folks say life has no meaning at all… Me, I believe you measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you…”
I believe Morgan Freeman’s character is trying to tell us is to invest in others. Live a life that pours life into others souls and makes them better. Live a life that is an example to others. Does what you really want out of life have a monetary value or does it just cost you time, dedication, and service? As Kid President says, ”we need to live in a world with fewer selfies and more otherpeoplies.”
The most passionate, diligent, conscientious educators I know do their daily work because they are part of something larger than themselves. They get up everyday because of something they represent and they are committed to fulfilling a dream. They are driven by serving others over themselves, and they understand the legacy they leave has nothing to do with possessions and material things.
So the question is: Are the people I serve better because I lead them?
As leaders, this is a tough question. Does your work just improve test scores, or does it make people better people? I would challenge if your work does not improve the people you serve holistically, you are missing the point. The hope in education is if we do the job right, the students and staff we serve will one day thank us for leading a life of service. And if we are exemplifying a life of fulfillment they might say that it is because of our example that their life is better.