Reflections on the Meaning of Life

By Charles L. Kern on Aug 1, 2016

Originally published in the WFCF Newsletter, Vol. 10, No. 2, August 2016

I am now seventy years old. As the years have come and gone, I sometimes look back at my life so far, and the life of friends and others that I have known, and ask the question,

What Is the Meaning of Life?

When I contemplate the meaning of life, I frequently see the question as synonymous with another question, “How will you know if you have been a success in life?” About fifty-six years ago, I was active in the youth fellowship program at my local church. To this day, I remember the evening that our youth fellowship advisor posed that very question to us. We all answered with comments and thoughts about making money, getting rich, and living a good life—at least as our teenage minds defined a good life. In response, the advisor said, “No, you will have been a success in life if other people in the world have a better life because of you.” Certainly, we youngsters did not fully comprehend the meaning of his answer. But his answer always stuck with me and became a part of my psyche. I was reminded of that experience about a year ago when I was in a shop that sold cards, stationery, and related items. In that shop I purchased a card that had on it a quote from the contemporary philosopher John Searles. The quote is, “The meaning of life is to love, to laugh, and to make a difference—to have it mean something that you lived at all.”

By the time I got out of graduate school forty-seven years ago, with MBA degree firmly in hand, I believed that I was well on my way to “success” with plenty of opportunities to make a good income and accumulate wealth. Getting to that point was not always easy. Both of my parents died while I was in undergraduate school, leaving virtually no estate. But a number of wonderful things also happened:

  • Two of my college professors made it possible for me to receive a teaching assistantship and get that MBA degree at no cost to me.
  • A partner in a major CPA firm made it possible for me to get summer internships with the Philadelphia office of his firm after my junior college year and through graduate school.
  • Folks in my hometown helped me to get summer jobs while in my earlier years of college.
  • People just kept helping me along.

All of That Made Wonderful Changes in My Life

I had been truly blessed. I decided that it was now time to begin trying to pay back. I became a Big Brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. My “Little Brother” was eight years old. That program ends when the Little becomes 18 years old, if not before. But we have kept in touch. He is now 53 years old, married, and the father of three sons. We live far apart now, but we are in touch with one another frequently. I learned the joy and blessed feeling of reaching out and helping. I try to stay alert for opportunities to reach out and help—to help make a difference in the lives of others, to have it mean something that I lived at all. It matters not to me if the folks know from where the help (of a material, philosophic, or emotional nature) has come.

The World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) is a great opportunity for you to experience and enjoy the meaning of life; to have it mean something that you lived at all; to allow other people in the world to have a better life because of you; to be a success! Our mission, and your opportunity, is to “provide support to projects in third world countries that promote the nutritional and medical needs of those who are orphaned and disabled.”

Join us. Reflect on the meaning of life.