America's strong heritage with regard to allowing its citizens the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" has brought about a mindset that each person should work for his own benefit and personal pleasure. While there is nothing wrong with happiness and enjoying oneself, this route to seeking out joy will usually leave people empty-handed. A recent experience with a homeless man strengthened my belief that true, satisfying happiness comes not from working for one's own benefit but from serving others.
About a week ago, I went to Capital City Mall with two friends to seek out a more enjoyable meal than I would find in State University’s cafeteria. As we approached the entrance to the mall, I saw a presumably homeless man standing near the door. Though I heard his request for spare change, I passed him by without much thought. I had only a few pennies and, having grown up only an hour from a large metropolitan area, I had been downtown enough times to know it's often unwise to even make eye contact with those begging for spare change. Normally, that would have been the end of the story and I would have had nothing else about which to write. But, something inside was nagging at me…I couldn't get the man off my mind. As I ate my meal from Panda Express, I found that there was more food than I could eat. I determined that the homeless man could make more use of the leftovers than the garbage can would. As I exited the mall, I approached the man and told him I couldn't give him any change, but I had some food for him. With shaky hands, possibly due to a handicap or the brisk, wintry air, he gratefully pulled out a Wal-Mart bag for me to put the food in. I slid my le...
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...ry weekend, or have a "good" family to be satisfied. I find joy not in feeling trapped working hard to advance myself so that I can begin the vicious cycle once again, but in helping others and looking out for their needs before mine. Just as in the movie Pay it Forward, where a young middle-school boy affects countless people by carrying out simple acts of kindness for their benefit, I can make a difference in this world by helping out even just one person in need.
Though my beliefs did not change through my experience with the homeless man, the event provided me with a strong, down-to-earth reminder that I don't need to accumulate millions of dollars to die a happy man. Rather, if I simply look for ways to attend to the needs of other people and do what I can to improve their lives, even in small ways, I can be satisfied with where I'm at and lead a happy life.
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