Who were, are, or will be the beneficiaries of your life’s work?
Has anyone ever asked you that question?
I had never thought to ask that question till someone told me that my work had not benefited them.
When we speak of an individual’s legacy, we can think about many things. What we have created, what we have contributed, what we have done, the sacrifices we have made, as well as the people whom we have uplifted. In all of this, we often think of our achievements, our accolades and our awards.
It is a ‘me’ centred approach. But when I stopped to think about who has actually benefited from my work, the answer that eventually came surprised me. In the general sense of the word, a beneficiary is someone or something that receives help or an advantage from something.
So who benefited from my work? Was it my friends and family? Was it my loved ones? Was it my coworkers and colleagues?
You could say that they all benefited, as they obviously would, simply from us all being there together at the same time, and for the very obvious and direct benefits they accrued from me. But when I found myself stuck in a difficult situation, these people were nowhere to be found. They had, it seemed, completely forsaken me. I was wondering what happened… Had I not given them so much? Why did they abandon me in this way?
In hindsight, their abandonment of me was the best thing that ever could have happened.
In the process, not only did I find people whom would actually benefit from my work–not simply because they were there–but because they needed something I had to offer. Secondly, I discovered that, for the large part, the beneficiaries of my work were not people I knew. Not directly, at least.
I had, like many people, spent a large part of my life in public service. The pay was comfortable, but it was not the type of job that would enable you to roll around in money. I had done a lot of pro bono work as well.
And out of nowhere, it was these very people who came to salute me. It was they, the strangers whom I never knew intimately, who thanked me for what I had done for them. I have spent some personal time with these folks now. These are not your kings and queens. These are the people who are doing their best to get by and cannot think about much beyond the day to day. If they make it through the day, it is enough for them.
Their gratitude did not make me swell with pride. I did not feel that sense of charity that many do when they meet people whom they perceive as ‘less fortunate’ and are able to lend that helping hand. But nor did their recognition of my life’s work displease me.
I have, through this journey, found myself many true friends.
I am, for the first time in my life, am no longer a lonesome boy.
I have now retired from public service. Perhaps one day I will wish to serve in the same way again. But I am currently occupied with other projects. In a way, you could describe it as a transition phase–from one modality of life to another.
By some twist of what can only be described as fate, I am now becoming a businessman. I can’t say that it was what I had in mind for my life. But there is someone very special I know who thinks it would have been the right decision for me had I not chosen public service.
I will continue to serve, as I always have. But this time in a different way and in a different context.
As I usher in the New Year, I pray that God will light my path and guide my way, as He always has.