ON BEING USEFUL
Can you find anything, in all the works of Nature, which is not made for some use? The cow gives milk, the ox labors in the field, the sheep furnishes wool for clothing, and all of them provide us with meat. The horse and the dog are the servants of man. Every animal—every little insect—has its place, and its work to perform, carrying out the great design of its Creator. And so it is with the inanimate creation. The earth yields its products for the use of man and beast; and the sun, and the air, and the clouds, (each in turn,) help forward the work. And to how many thousand uses do we put the noble, stately tree! It furnishes houses for us to live in, furniture for our convenience, fuel to make us warm, ships to sail in, and to bring us the products of other lands. It yields us fruit for food, and to gratify our taste. And so you may go through all the variety of animal and vegetable life, and you will find everything designed for some use. And, though there may be some things of the use of which you are ignorant, yet you will find everything made with such evidence of design, that you cannot help thinking it must have been intended for some use.
Now, if everything in creation is designed for some use, surely you ought not to think of being useless, or of living for nothing. God made you to be useful; and, to answer the end of your being, you must begin early to learn to be useful. "But how can I be useful?" you may ask. "I wish to be useful. I am anxious to be qualified to fill some useful station in life—to be a missionary or a teacher, or in some other way to do good. But I do not see what good I can do now."
Though you may not say this in so many words, yet I have no doubt that such thoughts may often have passed through your mind. Many people long to be useful, as they suppose, but think they must be in some other situation, to afford them the opportunity. This is a great mistake. God, who made all creatures, has put every one in the right place. In the place where God has put you, there you may find some useful thing to do. Do you ask me what useful thing you can do? You may find a hundred opportunities for doing good, and being useful, every day—if you watch for them. You can be useful in assisting your mother; you can be useful in helping your brothers and sisters; you can be useful in school, by supporting the authority of your teacher, and by being kind and helpful to your playmates. If you make it the great aim of your life to be useful, you will never lack opportunities.
I have seen young people, who would take great delight in mere play or amusement; but the moment they were directed to do anything useful, they would be displeased. Now, I do not object to amusement, in its proper place; for a suitable degree of amusement is useful to the health. But 'pleasure' alone is a small object to live for; and if you attempt to live only to be amused, you will soon run the whole round of pleasure, and become tired of it all. But if you make it your great object to be useful, and seek your chief pleasure therein, you will engage in occasional amusement with a double relish. No one can be happy who is not useful. Pleasure soon satiates. One amusement soon grows stale, and another is sought; until, at length, they all become tasteless and insipid.
Let it be your object, then, every day of your life, to be useful to yourself and others. In the morning, ask yourself, "What useful things can I do today? What can I do that will be a lasting benefit to myself? How can I make myself useful in the family? What can I do for my father or mother? What for my brothers or sisters? And what unselfish act can I perform for the benefit of those who have no claim upon me?" Thus you will cultivate useful habits and benevolent feelings. And you will find a rich return into your own bosom. By making yourself useful to everybody, you will find everyone making a return of your kindness. You will secure their friendship and good will, as well as their bounty. You will find it, then, both for your interest and happiness to BE USEFUL.