“I would rather have it said ‘He lived usefully’ than ‘He died rich.'” — Benjamin Franklin (as quoted in the Fall American Benefactor)

The trick, as I suggested yesterday, is not knowing how to get rich. (Work really hard, save and invest every penny you can, stir and allow to simmer for three decades.) It’s knowing how to live usefully. Franklin did stuff like establish the postal service, advance the study of electricity, launch the country’s first fire insurance association and persuade the French to help America win the Revolutionary War. What are we to do?

For those of us not up to discovering the cure for breast cancer or launching some astonishing new global satellite system, there are, naturally, myriad other opportunities of a scale we can handle. Indeed, there are so many it’s overwhelming.

There are two useful things one can offer: time and money. Next week, a suggestion for your money. Today, a suggestion for your time.

Does your local paper have a weekly feature listing all the local nonprofits in need of volunteers? A sort of Volunteer Help Wanted? If not, why not suggest it to them — or even volunteer to edit it yourself?

And if they do have such a feature, well then, perhaps that’s a place to look for a way to be useful.

Of course, it’s likely you’re already swamped being useful — to your kids, your folks, your neighborhood association, wherever. I don’t have any extra time to be a Big Brother or help some underprivileged kid learn to read, either. (I wish I did.)

But just in case you’re not swamped, there’s a lot that needs doing. Someone of your caliber and goodwill could make Ben Franklin proud.



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