Here’s an interesting excerpt from the op-ed article written by the Dalai Lama and Arthur C. Brooks which appeared in the New York Times:
“In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth. We all need to be needed.
Being ‘needed’ does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others.
Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellowmen and women.
Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity.
But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed.”
No doubt, this is a very telling op-ed excerpt indeed. To be sure, it reveals a secret that could spell long life or premature death for the elderly: the “hunger for self-worth”, or the “desire to be useful”, or the “need to be needed”. It is such a universal human craving – a kind of craving that stems, quire notably, from the noble need to serve others.
Everyone, man and woman, young and old, whatever their race or creed, has been endowed by God with self-worth, which is more usually referred to as “human dignity”.
This finds fulfillment in being useful, in being needed. That is why, stripping a person of his or her self-worth or human dignity is to reduce that person to meaninglessness.
Among the elderly, the sinking feeling of being meaningless understandably gets amplified and is likely to hasten their journey to their graves.
Yes, we “need to be needed”. This is a universal hunger that we share in common as human beings, from where springs our natural hunger to serve our fellow human beings.
Meanwhile, as this piece touches about the elderly, let me share the following beautiful lines – originally attributed to Rashmi Trivedi, author of “Woman, Everything Will Be Fine” – supposedly to describe the profound changes or realizations of people in their 60s, 70s or 80s, thus:
1. After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.
2. I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.
3. I have stopped bargaining with vegetable and fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.
4. I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.
5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane and relive their past.
6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.
7. I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You”.
8. I have learned not to bother about a grease or spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.
9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.
10. I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat and neither am I in any race.
11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.
12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships, I will never be alone.
13. I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last. After all, it might be the last.
14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be!
My final note. We need not wait to be 60, or 70, or 80 to embrace these realizations or changes. More profoundly, we can practice them at any stage or age in our life – and, again, choose to be happy.