How to have a meaningful life without kids – Part 4/5 – Help the vulnerable
So far in this series, we’ve looked at some specific ways you can create a meaningful life without raising children. In this article, however, I’m going to look at something more general.
When you set out to create your own business, find the right volunteer opportunity, or start on your career, it’s your motivations more than your precise actions, that will lead to a fulfilling or unfulfilling life. Now, I could take this moment to talk about how money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather cut to the chase and simply say that finding meaning in life means finding meaning in something outside of yourself.
To be honest, I think this is why a lot of people have kids. How often have you heard something like, “When I had my daughter, it all came together. I realized there was so much more to life than just my life”? Or, “You don’t understand love until you start living for someone else”?
This idea of finding meaning by helping others is ancient. We evolved as highly social beings, in groups where helping one another was necessary for survival. However, it quickly moved beyond what was necessary. For instance, some of the earliest remains of our human ancestors show that they cared for the injured, elderly, and otherwise disabled. Some cases show injuries that would have taken months to heal, yet the other tribe members cared for this non-contributing member no matter how long it took them to recover.
Later on, Aristotle philosophized that real friendship was found in loving, rather than being loved. He remarks that a mother loves her child without seeking love in return. This is the essence of having meaning in one’s life. To love, to give, and to help for the sake of those things. And though the ideal of a mother’s love is a strong example, you don’t need to have children to devote your life to the service of others.
In this series, we’ve already gone over volunteering and sharing knowledge. In this article, I’m going to talk about something more general: simply helping the vulnerable.
Who are “the vulnerable?”
Our world is filled with people who susceptible to injury, who’ve undergone financial or emotional hardship, and who are otherwise at a higher risk for misfortune. People (human and non-human) who have little to no control over their lives are also vulnerable, as their well-being depends on the will of another. Such people are often children, animals, and people who are institutionalized (in prison, mental health facilities, or senior citizen homes).
How do I help them?
When offering aid, it’s important to do so without coming across as patronizing. Offering assistance to another should always be done out of a spirit of humility and the realization that if only a few things in your life had been different, you could be the one in need of help.
That being said, there are tons of ways to offer your service to those who need it.
Volunteer Your Time:
Making the safety and well-being of animals is one of the best ways to create a meaningful life.
Animal Charity Evaluators is a great resource that examines the effectiveness of various types of charities and volunteer efforts designed to help animals.
Great Nonprofits is a website that provides information on various charities and volunteer opportunities. Visit their page for at-risk youth to learn about opportunities in your area: http://greatnonprofits.org/categories/view/children-and-youth
Create the Good has an excellent guide on volunteering to help the eldery here: http://createthegood.org/campaign/volunteeringwithseniors
Get You Business Involved:
Whether you work for a large company or have your own small business, you can get involved on a corporate level. Charity Navigator has written an article with some great advice about giving through your workplace: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/content.view/cpid/159
If there’s a particular cause you’d like your workplace to consider, most charity and nonprofit websites will have information for corporations you can print out or email to your employer.
Want to find real, lasting meaning in your life without creating new humans? Become a servant to the ones who already exist.