I like this quote from Wendell Berry:
We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.
It reminds me of a thought experiment I’ve run through with all my children: would you rather live in a world where everyone else is looking out for you, at the cost of looking out for everyone else, or a world where everyone (including you) puts Number One first? The point is not to show how the world is, but how it ought to be—selflessness is a foundational principle in God’s economy.
Of course there’s always the problem of others who behave differently. What difference does it make to live for the good of the world when all around us live for the good of themselves? How can I survive in a world where everyone looks out for Number One without putting my own interests first? I have no answer besides: taste and see. Spend some time living for others, and notice the difference it makes for you. Learn to take pleasure in making things easier for others, and you’ll have endless opportunities for taking pleasure.
Which reminds me of this anecdote, one I’ve quoted before, which I would probably have carved on my headstone if it weren’t so long, and if I were going to have a headstone:
Then Allen said, “I’ve discovered a way to have a lot more time. In the past, I used to look at my time as if it were divided into several parts. One part I reserved for Joey, another part was for Sue, another part to help with Ana, another part for household work. The time left over I considered my own. I could read, write, do research, go for walks.
“But now I try not to divide time into parts anymore. I consider my time with Joey and Sue as my own time. When I help Joey with his homework, I try to find ways of seeing his time as my own time. I go through his lesson with him, sharing his presence and finding ways to be interested in what we do during that time. The time for him becomes my own time. The same with Sue. The remarkable thing is that now I have unlimited time for myself!”