To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

“to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden, a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma State University Foundation. One of our major functions is fundraising for scholarships, professorships, chairs, and special projects for the university. During my orientation, the question was asked of the new members, “What is the major motivator for a person or organization who contributes to the university?” There was a lively and appropriate discussion. However, in the end, the major motivator that was identified was the ability to “make a difference.”

While that does not seem to be an unusual determination, it is a relevant one. In the end, when someone is motivated in any way, whether to make a financial contribution, to provide a service to mankind, or to be a great parent, child, friend or participant in an organization, perhaps the strongest and most meaningful motivator is the opportunity to “make a difference.” Serving a purpose in one’s life leads to fulfillment, joy and peace.

Making a difference in the lives of others, in your personal and professional life, is an intimate and valuable aspect of a life well lived.

When you contribute your time, energy, talent, or money to another, you make a difference. While others will benefit from your sharing, you will benefit equally. As it says in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Giving is a high privilege. The receiver shares something intimate and personal with you: trust. Fulfill that trust with worthiness and accountability.

What a privilege to be able to give in whatever manner is placed before you. To have gifts to be shared but to hold onto those gifts serves no one—including the potential giver. Again, the word giving does not only mean the giving of financial gifts. Listening to a friend, a child, a patient is an ultimate gift. Providing a work environment where employees are given the opportunity to grow and maximize potential is an act of giving. Loving another unconditionally is a unilateral gift. The opportunities to give to another and to make a difference– “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived” leads to an enlightened life.

The Dalai Lama translates and presents a prayer that he says is one of his favorites,

So long as peace remains.

So long a sentient beings remain,

I will remain,

In order to help, in order to serve,

In order to make my own contribution.

Truly, when one gives from a pure heart, gives with benevolence, and has no ulterior motives for the giving, joy, peace, love and fulfillment result.

I want to look back on my life and career and be able to say, “I am so glad that I did…..” (whatever) rather than looking back on my life and saying, “I wish I had…”

I wish the same for you.