“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imagine being offered a magical elixir … some mysterious potion that if taken, would prolong your life an extra 10, 20, perhaps even 50 healthy, worry-free years. Sounds great, huh? Ah, but there’s a catch: you’d be prohibited from spending any time whatsoever in the company of another human being. The potion would lose its power if you so much as said hello to a member of your family, a friend, a neighbor or even a total stranger.
So, what do you say? Deal … or no deal? Not a chance! At least, that’s how the overwhelming majority of us would respond.
“Man,” theorized Aristotle, “is by nature a social animal.” Which means a life without other people to help keep us strong and alive would be a life not worth living. As humans, we need to belong to one another, to our friends and families, to our culture and country, to our world. We need to know that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this with us together.
We require opportunities to volunteer, to contribute, to know we are needed. Having such experiences is not only critical for self-esteem and happiness; an engaged community, working together arm-in-arm, can move mountains in building an amazing place in which to live, work, receive a quality education and raise a family.
“Those who are given much have an obligation to give much in return,” asserts Barbara Kennedy, director of DEC’s Pottstown Training Center. “Our individuals are taught that the funding, the personalized therapies, the opportunities to socialize and make friends, and the depth of services offered year-round require them to give back. And they genuinely enjoy performing acts of kindness. Our folks have a natural desire to give of themselves.”
Under the expert guidance of DEC staff, hundreds of men and women are focusing on their abilities — not bemoaning their limitations — to pack and deliver nourishing meals to elderly shut-ins and neighbors who are battling life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, renal disease and HIV/AIDS. They’re collecting coats, mittens, woolen socks and other articles of clothing so children from impoverished homes can keep warm while traveling to and from school. They’re participating in hoagie sales and similar events to raise much-needed funds for community causes and charities. They’re beautifying public parks by supporting local clean-up campaigns. In oh-so-many ways, DEC staff and the individuals they serve are answering the clarion call to make a meaningful difference. Rather than dwell on the negatives in their lives, they’re busy making positive contributions to the quality of life in their communities and in their country.