As our SUV made its way through pothole streets in a shanty town in Namibia, the thought occurred to me, “Something’s not quite right.” We passed cardboard houses patched together by tape and string and children playing soccer with a small ball in the rock-strewn muddy street. The “homes” had no water, sewage or electricity, but the people seemed to have one thing in common: smiles. Odd to say, but the residents in this town in Sub-Saharan Africa seemed more than content—they were happy.
When I asked our guide why the residents of the shanty town don’t move, he seemed puzzled by the question. Our guide responded, “Why would they move? This is their home.” It was a lesson I’ll never forget.
We continually strive for a bigger house and fancier car—a/k/a the good life—and we’re led to believe that our material wealth will give us a happy life. But the statistics don’t lie. Since 1950, the rate of suicide in the US has doubled every ten years. Having more stuff, it turns out, has no correlation to happiness. Seems we’ve been told a big lie.
Then, how do we find happiness? For the past 18 years, attorney, Steve Gottlieb, Esq., has provided legal services to the homeless in the soup kitchen in mid-town Kingston, New York. Steve occasionally offers his legal advice to his homeless and disenfranchised “clients”, but mostly, he listens and shows concern for their plight. Steve serves others with no expectation of financial gain and this, my friend, is the definition of service.
At the end of our lives, it won’t matter what car we drove or the size of our house. The only thing that will matter is the impact that we’ve had on the lives of others when we had no expectation of getting anything in return. If we’ve served others—much like Steve Gottlieb, Esq.—we’ll know we lived a good life. And just maybe, we’ll have a smile on our face just like the residents of shanty town.