Ann Curry reports on refugees in Chad in February 2009. / Mike Turner/NBC NEWS
When I was about 10 or 11 years old, my father told me something that has always stayed with me. When I would ask him what I should be when I grew up, he always said, ‘Whatever you do, do something that is of some service to somebody else, because if you do, you’ll know that it mattered that you were born.’
My father’s message propelled me into a life of traveling the world and seeing people in great need with my own eyes. Over the years, it’s become so deeply imbedded in my brain that it’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction; it’s almost impossible for me not to step in and try to do something to help.
Once, as a young reporter on assignment, I saw a child being teased mercilessly on the playground because he had a webbed thumb. He was an immigrant who barely spoke English, and the kids made fun of him because he was different.
I did a story about him, and after it aired, a doctor called me and offered to fix the boy’s thumb for free. I told the family and went on about my life. Until one day I got a call from the hospital. The father said his son wanted to see me. I walked into the recovery room and the little boy held up his thumb. His eyes were filled with tears, and with his thick accent he said, ‘Thank you so much.’ Realizing that something I had done had so affected that little boy changed something in me.
What I didn’t realize until much later is that by sharing his message, my father had given me the keys to happiness. In the rush and the hustle and bustle of our lives, we often forget that those simple acts of giving can give our own lives the most value, the most comfort and peace. People don’t realize that doing something for others is actually the most selfish thing you can do.
On October 22, volunteer, give, or simply commit a single act of kindness and you will discover it is a gift you’ve given yourself.
Be sure to check out Matt Lauer’s essay as well.