Thursday , 26 April 2018

Living Usefully

By Christine Hockin-Boyd, Community Lifeline Center

Ben Franklin wrote a letter to his mother in 1750 in which he said, “I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than ‘He died rich.’

A writer, businessman, politician, public servant, inventor, Franklin basically defines the notion of a useful life. He was a clever businessman, but typically in service to others.

Today, we live famously, notoriously, publicly, privately, anonymously, fashionably. Celebrity is a career path; our lives can be defined by software and hard stops. We’re time poor, data rich, and password protected. We live in desperation, uncertainty, fear. We have much, we have little, we have nothing. We are alike, but not in the same place.

Living usefully, by definition, means using this gift we call life to its fullest purpose. Ben Franklin could have had wealth beyond avarice, but he didn’t patent one of his inventions. He didn’t see the world in terms of how much money he could make, but in how many people he could help. Some people – often the young – tend to measure life in terms of how personally satisfying it is. When we’re young and immortal, we value acquisitions, career paths, and the importance of right now.

With time and age comes perspective: ”right now” becomes less pressing, and we begin to ask what it is we created – other than our children – that will outlast us. How have we treated this gift called living? How have we lived usefully?

CLC serves those in need. There is no nobility in poverty. But, there is something about surviving adversity, even if it’s only by the skin of our teeth, that makes us stronger. And stronger people are more useful people. Many served by CLC go on to become hard working, tax paying residents with prospects in life. We are lucky to have them in our community, especially our seniors who have contributed much, and now ask for just a little.

CLC depends on the support of individuals, companies, churches, city, county, state and federal grant givers: those who believe, like Franklin, that being useful is its own reward. Those who feel that the metric of life isn’t how much we have but how many we’ve helped.

How have we treated this gift called living? How will we measure the days we’ve spent, and those we have left? Where will we find life’s greatest ROI? Franklin showed us the way to useful living.


Community Lifeline Center strengthens communities in North Collin County by guiding residents in crisis back to self-sufficiency and independence.

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