A young man sought the wisdom of the old man. Seeing that the young man was a seeker at heart, the old man asked, “What is the purpose of your life?”
The young man replied, “I am a doctor. I help sick people.”
The old man asked again, “What is the purpose of your life?”
Slightly frustrated, the young man elaborated, “I am a psychiatrist. People come to me with mental distress, and I help them feel better.”
Again the old man asked, gently, “young man, what do you think is the true purpose of your life?”
Thinking that helping others really was his purpose, he searched his mind for the deeper answer. Finally he said, “Ah, my purpose is to love people, not just my patients, but the whole world. And I do help many others.” Puffing his chest out, he added, “My young practice has been very successful, and I have accumulated great wealth already. I give money to the poor and the needy. I fund charities and good causes. I am a philanthropist.”
The old wise man’s eyes continued to look at the young man with compassion. Then he asked again, “Young man. What is the purpose of your life?”
Angry now, the young man barked, “I clearly do not know.”
The two men sat there for a long while in silence. Eventually, the young man came to himself, his heart truly in search of an answer, and he tried one more time.
He said, “I am a father of seven young, growing children. I am teaching them about how to be good stewards, honorable children who obey God’s laws, and I provide for their bodily and spiritual needs. Is that the purpose of my life?” he asked pleadingly.
The wise man looked at the young man with intense love and then told him this.
“Each thing you have listed as your purpose, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a philanthropist and a father, depend on those you serve being sicker, sadder, poorer and in need of you in order for you to fulfill your purpose. Surely you know, your purpose cannot be one that requires others to be lesser so you can be more; for others to be smaller so you can be bigger; for others to fail so you can succeed. No, my son, when you say, “I am a doctor” “I am a psychiatrist” “I am a philanthropist’ and “I am a father”, you have stated your purpose, but only in the first two words. Whatever comes after “I am” belongs to the world, and as soon as you have comprehended the true meaning in the first two words, you have found your purpose.”