(Editor's Note: The following article is a letter sent to the email of The Shenandoah Sentinel by Thomas F. O'Neill, a Shenandoah native and teacher at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School, Suzhou, China.)
Every person at some point in their lives need to ask themselves this simple question, “what is my true purpose in life?”
A purposeful life will help you find something more meaningful -- in the things you do for yourself and others. It can also help you achieve what you most want in life - true happiness. People, throughout the world have the same deep desire -- to be happy.
For me happiness is not something that is given to me with each passing day. It is something I try to bring to each passing day. In other words, happiness is not found in the things we want to get from life. But rather happiness is found in the things we give to life.
There is an old Buddhist saying, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
I like to tell my students at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China. That there will be times when the burdens of life make us feel as if we are carrying them on our shoulders but without life’s pressures diamonds will never appear.
Kellen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” On our life’s Journey things may not always go as planned but that does not mean there are not greater opportunities before us.
I like to remind my students, that the most precious things in life, cannot be built by hand, bought, or sold by man. They can only be experienced through a wondrous soul and shared from one heart to the other. Happiness can only be experienced once it is shared with those around us.
There is also an old Chinese proverb, “Fools seek happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under their feet.” We all want happier lives and the material things we seek and desire may in fact make our lives a little more comfortable. But the material things we acquire in life - will never provide us with a meaningful and purposeful life.
There are also things in life that we can give away and keep, our word, a happy smile, and a grateful heart. There is an old saying, “It’s not happiness, that leads to gratitude, it’s gratitude that leads to happiness.”
Our greatest achievements in life, will not consist in fame or glory, but in the unremembered, unrecognized, and undetected acts of loving kindness that were bestowed on others. That is where our true purpose and the meaning of life resides.
I am a firm believer in the universal law - what we give to others is returned to us a thousand-fold. I also like to remind my students that kindness and love are the greatest forms of wisdom and love itself is the afterglow of life.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O'Neil