Four words sum up the secret to not living in vain: Serve others — serve God

Serve Others — Serve God

By —— Bio and Archives--December 26, 2018

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Serve Others — Serve God
Because long years of farming permanently set my circadian cycle, I rarely sleep past four o’clock, which provides time to take early-morning walks during which any worthwhile thoughts I have that day are likely to be formulated.

Out walking one late December morning years ago, I began ruminating about how I could turn past failures into future successes. Few things relieve, and delude, the human mind more than those annual promises to oneself: New Year’s Resolutions.


If a person were to ask Orison Swett Marden, he would have gotten volumes of answers. Success is the central theme in most of his books, and he is often referred to as the founder of America’s Twentieth Century Success Movement.

Some of his best-known quotes are: “No one has a corner on success — it is his who pays the price”; “people must make the most possible out of what has been given them. This is success — there is no other”; “no man fails who does his best”; “a will finds a way.”

Encouraged by Marden, I scribbled New Year’s resolutions in a list entitled “Not To.” I resolved not to talk about myself; not to squander money; not to stop taking morning walks; not to continue being an old dog reluctant to learn new tricks; not to worry instead of praying; not to miss church on Sundays.

Not to … not to … not to … so many resolutions I almost resolved not to make any resolutions.

That is, until the woman appeared. I had seen her several times when out walking. Old, shriveled, in clothes worn out with care, a hood covering her head, bent over a cane, she searched for coins anywhere others might have dropped them — in parking lots, along sidewalks, in public telephone change slots.

I always ignored her, but it was the season of giving. Would I continue being Scrooge? No! Striding up to her, I extended a handful of bills and said, “Merry Christmas, Ma’am.”

Clutching the money to her breast in trembling hands, she raised her head, and from within the ragged hood’s black void, a smile that probably hadn’t shone for years appeared, and I heard a tender, emotion-strangled voice say, “Oh, Mister, thank you, thank you so very much.”

As I watched her fade into the lonely darkness, I sensed peace in my soul that I have rarely known, which brought to mind lines written by American poet Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

I discarded my long list of resolutions and replaced it with a single promise to myself: Face each new day, resolving not to pass up opportunities to make it a happy one for a fellow human being.

Four words sum up the secret to not living in vain: Serve others — serve God.



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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran (Vietnam Era), former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer and ginner, author, and retired college teacher. His short story anthology, Boss, Jaybird And Me, is available at Squarebooks.com (telephone: 662-236-2262). His latest collection of faith-based short stories, entitled One Hundred By Five Hundred, is also available at Square Books (telephone: 662-236-2262) and at amazon.com. To receive Reed’s free weekly newsletter, send an email address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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