I wanted the opportunity to explain why I reference the ending scene from the “Schindler’s List” movie in my book. Mr. Schindler spent his entire fortune saving lives during the Holocaust, and at the end of the movie he is crying because he could have saved just one more person. Here’s the scene:
This scene motivates me. Not because I feel an obligation to help others, but because I want to, I choose to. I want to do as much good as I can while on this earth. Here’s why:
I used to think that I was better than other people. I was picked on a lot growing up, and I found my self-worth through excelling in academics. I am ashamed to say that I thought other people’s problems were their own fault. I thought they just weren’t trying hard enough, or that they were choosing not to try. After college, when I became ill with schizoaffective disorder, life taught me that while we do have personal responsibility, we are not all to blame for our situations. I tried as hard as I could to improve my life, and I repeatedly failed. I suffered more than I thought humanly possible, and this gave me compassion and empathy towards others.
My illness also taught me that our self-worth is not found in external things. It is not found in our possessions, our money, our job title, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the people we associate with, or anything else outside of ourselves. Our worth comes from the fact that we are a living soul, created by God. Nothing can take that away. Once I realized this, and that we are all part of the same creation, i.e. we are all One, the only thing left that matters is to serve others.
At some point our materials stop bringing us fulfillment, and the external things that we identify with, such as our job title, stop bringing us fulfillment. At some point our own self-importance stops motivating us. At some point seeking pleasure just no longer fulfills. We can try to keep running on the hamster wheel of getting new things, new relationships, new job titles, but I believe that eventually we will all have to wake up and realize that what really matters in this world is how we treat others. That’s the only thing that will be left of us when we’re gone.
Obviously, I know that when you have an illness, it’s hard to think about helping others. When you feel like you don’t have enough to survive yourself, it’s hard to think about helping others. You definitely have to take care of yourself first, and get well enough to be able to make a difference for others. However, now that I am well, I have found that what motivates me to eat healthy, exercise, enrich my mind, and basically do anything, is to strengthen myself so that I can better serve. If I was just doing this for me, I’d likely end up with a bowl of ice cream on the sofa much more often than I do.
The only reason I am able to face the fatigue, discomfort, and challenges of life, is because I find strength in my mission to help others. If you have a family or children, you probably know what I mean. They are probably your motivation to work when it is difficult, and to try to better yourself. I just extend what I consider my family to the entire human family. I know that other people are suffering in the way that I did and in many other ways, all over the world, and that is unacceptable to me. I want to live in a world where people are healthy and happy and thriving, rather than constantly struggling to survive. I take personal responsibility for that, and for what I can do to make a difference. It is not an obligation. It’s the only thing that brings me lasting fulfillment.