August -September 2018
At a recent funeral visit, I was reminded of a quote by Albert Pike, the American lawyer, soldier and journalist, who lived in the 19th century. Albert Pike said this: ‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.’
Pike's words have a particular resonance in a world where our value is so often based upon our personal and material success: the amount of money we earn, the rank or status of our work, the power we are able to exert, our physical prowess, our looks. None of this in itself is wrong; on the contrary it is surely a good thing if we try to better ourselves, to make the most of our God given gifts. However, it all becomes rather distorted if our only motivation and desire is to promote ourselves and raise our own status.
At the very heart of Christian faith, and indeed many other creeds, is the importance of community. The Holy Trinity, the fundamental belief of Christianity, speaks of God himself/herself as community – three persons in one God. To be human is essentially to be a part of a community; in fact, whether we like it or not, we are deeply mutually inter-dependent – we need our friends and our family, we need each other. In my experience, there is nothing more enjoyable and life-enhancing, than spending time in fun and laughter with others. But for community to flourish, it has to be as much about contributing as taking – giving of ourselves so that others may be encouraged, nurtured and supported.
The person, about whose funeral I was referring at the start, had in her life fostered over 200 children. We can only begin to imagine what an impact she will have had on the lives of so many; but it will have been achieved with not inconsiderable self-sacrifice - as well as offering, I am sure, deep fulfilment.
‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.’
We all need to look after ourselves and we all have direct responsibilities towards our families; but perhaps we can look to find satisfaction less in our own self-glorification, and more in our service to others.