A man driving down a country road spotted a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field of grass. Sensing something was wrong, he pulled the car over to the side of the road. As he watched, the farmer just stood there doing nothing and looking at nothing.
Curiosity got the better of the motorist and he climbed from his car and approached the idle man. “Ah, excuse me mister, but is something wrong?”
“No, no,” replied the farmer, “I'm fine. I'm just trying to win a Nobel Prize.”
“You are?” asked the puzzled motorist. “But how?”
“Well, I heard they give the Nobel Prize . . . to people who are out standing in their field.”
It's true that few of us will ever win a Nobel Prize. But that's okay, because being the world's best is not the point. Let me ask a different kind of question.
According to John Gardner, founding chairman of Common Cause, one cheerful old man asks a fascinating question of just about everybody he meets for the first time. Once they exchange names and they get to the part where one is sure to ask the other where they work or what they do for a living, he turns the conversation in a different direction. He asks his new acquaintance an unusual question. He asks a big question – an important one. He asks, “What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?”
The question is direct and a little unsettling. It is not as easy to answer as, “What do you do for a living?” It requires some thought. When asked why he likes to pose that question, the old man responds that he doesn't care how they answer. He just wants to put the thought into their minds. He thinks everyone should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer.
"What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?"
As I search for an answer, my mind goes first to family. We've raised healthy and productive children who want to make this world a better place. Not that I've been a model parent – far from it. But I'm proud of them. I also believe in the life my spouse and I have tried to put together with one another. We both chose to work hard on our relationship from the beginning.
What else have I done that I believe in and I'm proud of? Several things, I hope. But one especially is the creation of Life Support System. For me it's always been about reaching out, and I'm gratified when others in our Life Support System family write and tell me how it has made a difference. In a small way I think we're helping to bring the world together.
How would you answer that intriguing question? It may not be a big thing. Perhaps it's something that nobody but you cares about. But it cost you somehow … you're invested in it. You probably will never be awarded a Nobel Prize for your accomplishment, but it was important enough to do.
I think this can be one of the most powerful questions we can ever ask ourselves. It causes us to look deep inside and, like the old man says, prompts us to live our lives in such a way that we can have a good answer.
Now it's your turn. You may want to close your eyes and give it some thought. "What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?"