8. MASTER THE ART OF ALTRUISM
A young college man sought counseling from Dr. George W. Truett, who was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, at the time. The student had passed through troubled waters. He said he was ready to give up his faith and that he had lost all confidence in God and people.
Dr. Truett listened to this young man. When the student finished his tale of woe, the wise and patient pastor asked the young man for a favor. The young man agreed. Dr. Truett then gave the young man the name of a hospital and the room number of a patient who was in need of a visit. Said the great-hearted minister, "I just don't have time to make the visit. You make it for me." The young man assented.
He came away from that hospital a new man. As a favor to the mighty pastor in Dallas, the young man determined to do his best. He did so well that he became genuinely interested in the patient. In so doing, his own difficulties and despair were dispelled.
In 1981, I returned to the lovely island of Bali in Indonesia. Since rooms were tight, I did not stay at my usual stopping place, the Bali Intercontinental, but instead secured accommodations at the Bali Hyatt. When I arrived and started up the steps to the entrance, several of the hotel personnel said, "Welcome to the Bali Hyatt, Dr. Haggai. Michael, our general manager, has reserved for you the best suite in the hotel. You are his guest, and you won't pay for anything."
I expressed amazement. At the registration desk to check in, one of the general manager's assistants said, "Oh, no, that is already taken care of. Let me escort you to your room." It was one of the most elegant suites I have ever seen in all of my world travels.
Within minutes, the general manager, Michael, came to my suite. I tried to express my thanks.
"You don't remember me, do you?" he said.
"No, and I apologize."
He said, "In the 1960s when you stayed at the Singapore Intercontinental, I was a bellman, hustling bags. Every time you came, you treated me just as grandly as you treated your friend, the general manager, George Milne. I have harbored a secret dream for all these years that someday I would be in charge of my own hotel and be able to show you my gratitude for the encouragement and inspiration you gave me."
That same year at Brisbane Airport, ready to board a plane headed for Sydney, I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that the flight had been cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The passengers vented their anger on that poor Ansett Airways agent in a way I've rarely heard. I watched the way he handled them. When things quieted down and most of them had left, I walked up to him and said, "Congratulations on the masterful way you handled a situation over which you had no control. You will be the winner, believe me." He thanked me warmly, and I went back to the hotel.
A year and a half later, I was at the same airport with a coach ticket for Sydney. One of the lady agents came up to me and said, "Aren't you Dr. Haggai?"
"Yes, I am."
"Would you come this way, please?"
I followed her and was astonished when she said, "I need your ticket. We are replacing it with a first-class ticket, our compliments."
When I expressed surprise, she said, "Our manager said that last year, when people were so angry that at one point he wondered if they were going to do him bodily harm, you were the one person that kept cool and even encouraged him. This is his way-and our way-of thanking you."
If you would conquer worry with this weapon of praise you must master the art of altruism. Become genuinely interested in other people. Love your neighbor as yourself. Honor God by losing your life in serving others. By "others" I am referring not only to your employer or your family, but also to all those whom God gives you the privilege of serving.
Take the initiative
Uncle Joe Hawk was one of the most radiant personalities I have ever met. For more than half a century he was a member of the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tennessee. When I met him, he was 87 years old—but younger than many 25-year-olds. He attended every service I conducted in that good church in 1953.
Let me tell you a little about him, and you will catch an insight into his sparkling vitality as an octogenarian. Years before, during the Great Depression, the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tennessee, was in straitened circumstances. Uncle Joe Hawk was a drayman. He had been blessed with a good business, but of course he was suffering just like other businessmen during those hard years. Nevertheless, this dear man continued to put first his concern for that church and its people, many of whom had not yet accepted Christ.
At considerable personal risk, Uncle Joe sold his two finest dray horses. He gave the money to the church. Because of his gift, the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tennessee, stands as a mighty citadel for Christ today. Few people knew what he did. He did it without fanfare. In fact, many of the church members today are unaware of this tremendous sacrifice. Uncle Joe never got the money back from the church. He didn't expect to. He didn't want it. He gave it for the sheer joy of giving. He gave it to the eternal glory of God and for the spiritual profit of man. No man who is that interested in others has time to worry about his own problems.
When was the last time you sacrificed and sent anonymously a gift of $50 over and above your tithe to a college or seminary student who was having a hard time? When was the last time you gave something to someone anonymously—a gesture that could in no way profit you from a material standpoint?
You may say you have no money. But you don't need vast reserves of cash to be generous to others. For example:
• Perhaps the mother next door is sick and in great need of help. Why not offer to take care of the children for a couple of days? True, they may be little monsters. But that is what makes your help so valuable to their mother.
• When your neighbor goes on vacation, why not offer to take care of the mail and send it on?
• Why not drop a line of appreciation to that teacher who has taken such an interest in your child and has made such a distinct contribution to his or her highest good?
• Drop a line of gratitude to the pastor for the message that was such a blessing to you. If you send your note by e-mail it won’t even cost you a stamp.
Does not the Word of God tell us we are to esteem others better than ourselves?” Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3)
Let me earnestly suggest that you determine to do something specific for someone everyday—something for which no remuneration of any kind will be sought or expected. What use is morality if it isn’t proactive? And besides, doing this will relieve you of the time you normally give to worrying. Your cup will run over with the joy of the Lord. Go ahead, do it now. If it doesn’t come to you easily and if you don’t know how to begin, simply sit down and ask the Lord to guide you. With pencil and paper in hand, write down some things that come to your mind.
Perhaps the Lord will lead you to do the washing for the lady next door who has been hampered by her day-and-night care of sick children. Perhaps you will contact the head of some fine Christian college or seminary to secure the name of a student who is in great need. You may be led to invite a lonely church member to have dinner with you on Sunday. With just a little thought you will be able to come up with many more suggestions than these. Just go do it!
Putting yourself out for others is like a healthy diet
I am persuaded that my mother, who suffered major illnesses for the last 45 years of her life, lived to such a great age and with such great satisfaction because she immersed herself in serving others.
When a family moved into the neighborhood, she would be there with some warm food while they were getting settled. When someone was sick, she would take a card to them, as well as some thoughtful little present. She maintained correspondence with hundreds of people around the world.
I think that serving others created in her a greater capacity to praise. She was a mild-mannered lady, quiet of demeanor, but a person of strong will and great capacity to care for others.
To this day, nearly a decade after her final illness and death, people all over the world still talk to me about her. They will tell me of some little act of kindness that she had shown toward them. They will produce a postcard, a letter, or a greeting card that she had mailed to them.
One of her close friends died in 1939 in Massachusetts. Mother maintained contact with the four daughters, their spouses, and the grandchildren from 1945, when she left Massachusetts, until late 1978, when she became bedridden.
It is giving, not getting, that induces praise. It is serving, not being served, that develops the highest type of rejoicing. And, of course, no one can rejoice and worry at the same time. The two are mutually exclusive.
If you want to find real joy in living and a genuine escape from worrying, get involved in helping others. It will leave you no time to worry.
Life offers countless opportunities for altruism
A friend of mine, Elmer G. Leterman, visited Honolulu in 1935. In those days, the main mode of travel from the East Coast of the United States to Hawaii was by ship. Elmer Leterman descended the gang plank and was greeted effusively by friends who put leis around his and his wife's necks. But he noticed there were hundreds of people disembarking whom nobody met. They were not given leis. He had hardly unpacked his suitcase at the hotel before he determined that as long as he was in Hawaii, he would meet every boat with a sufficient number of leis to welcome every person who did not have someone meeting him, and put a lei around that person's neck with the robust "aloha" for which Hawaiian hospitality is internationally known.
As it turned out, people whom he contacted in this way gave him multiplied millions of dollars of business over the next 40 years, even though that was the last thing on his mind. Elmer was a happy man, always upbeat. He had mastered the art of altruism. And it left no room for a divided mind.
The late Ee Peng Liang of Singapore was a man who had earned the respect not only of the Singapore people, but of people around the world who had watched his humanitarian efforts over the years. He was a chartered accountant by profession and headed up a substantial business in Singapore.
The man never ceased to amaze me in his capacity for remembering detail. I met him once. Periodically I would get a note from him with a warm greeting. There was absolutely nothing that I could do for him in a business or personal way except give him the assurance of the continuity of my friendship and respect. But Ee Peng Liang did not do what he did in order to get things from others. He had mastered the art of altruism and impressed me as being one of the most worry-free men I have met in the course of my travels.
Help those who need help in ways they really need it
By all means, use common sense in your efforts to assist other people. Don't be like a certain young Cub Scout who had his own ideas on the subject. One night during a pack meeting the scoutmaster asked all those who had done their good deed for the day to lift their hands. All hands were lifted except the hand of one scout.
The scoutmaster barked out, "Jimmy, go out and do your good deed for the day and don't come back until you have done it."
Jimmy was gone about 20 minutes. He came back. His clothes were in shreds. His hair was disheveled. His face was cut and bleeding.
The scoutmaster said, "Jimmy, what have you been doing?"
The boy replied, "I did my good deed for the day, sir."
"What was that?" asked the scoutmaster.
"I helped an old lady across the street, sir."
"Well," said the scoutmaster, "how on earth did you get in that condition?"
"She didn't want to go," replied Jimmy.
Use common sense in your effort to help others. During the darkest part of the Depression a needy family was given an expensive pedigreed French poodle. Doubtless there is much good to be said about a French poodle. But the friend who gave the dog would have been much wiser and more helpful if she had taken the same money and purchased needed clothing and food for the family.
Assist the other person at the point of the greatest need. While doing so, remember, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)
Kindness kills worry every time
Your genuine interest in other people will assassinate the monster of worry. Your positive thoughts of concern for others will crowd out negative fear-producing anxiety.
Reflect once again upon the concern our Lord showed for others. Even while dying, He cried out, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). And, while in the agonizing process of being executed upon the cross, He showed concern for His mother and made the finest possible preparation for her after His departure.
Real Christian discipline in the strength of God is required to master the art of altruism, but the rewards are immeasurable—especially as they relate to the altruist. Without exception, the people who are always rejoicing are people who have mastered this art of altruism, of being genuinely interested in others. This rejoicing chases away gloom and kills worry.
You will "rejoice in the Lord always" as you faithfully fulfill the injunction in Galatians 6:2-4: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
I share with you these same verses from the Amplified New Testament :
Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it]. For if any person thinks himself to be somebody [too important to condescend to shoulder another's load] when he is nobody [of superiority except in his own estimation], he deceives and deludes and cheats himself. But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor. —Galatians 6:2-4