What makes someone memorable? Is there a common thread that neatly connects such people throughout history? Yes, there is.
I recently read a quote that made me stop and think about this thread, how it runs through every person of renown, and how it is true for both the good and the bad. Let’s take a closer look to see what we can learn.
The one thing
The quote I read hit on one thing that makes a person’s memory linger many years after they leave this earth. That one thing is serving others and is stated clearly in the following quote.
“One of the most amazing things ever said on this earth is Jesus’s statement: ‘He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.’” Harry Emerson Fosdick
He goes on to say:
“Nobody has one chance in a billion of being thought really great after a century has passed except those who have been the servants of all. That strange realist from Bethlehem knew that.” Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969)
Whether you are a Christian or not, you must admit Fosdick’s words ring true.
There is little question that the most significant and memorable people throughout history served others. Jesus, the most recognized ever, established the supreme example of the meaning of serving. More on that in a minute.
Another example of serving others occurred 1500 years before Christ, creating one of the most memorable events and people in history. He freed over 600,000 from slavery and served as their leader for 40 years. His name was Moses, and his legacy continues to this day, 3500 years later!
In more recent history, those who have served many people will be in the memories of humanity for generations to come. Some of our nation’s founders, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, come to mind, as do people like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Billy Graham. Each of these served selflessly, doing great good, affecting the lives of many.
Naturally, the more people served and the more extreme the serving, the more memorable the individual. In the case of Christ, the memory of Him is so strong because He served to the extreme! He died horribly on the cross and, even more astoundingly, rose from the dead. Is it any wonder more has been written about Him than anyone else? All because of what He did for others.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King (1929–1968)
As with most things in life, there is another side to the coin. Serving others is one of the greatest and noblest things a person can do. This side of the coin contains good and light. But what about the other side? That of evil and darkness?
To be served
Yes, there is another way to be remembered and written into history beyond a hundred years, as Fosdick puts it, but it is certainly not something to aspire to.
This infamous group is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon, certainly not in the next hundred years. These are those who are pure evil. They enslaved and murdered millions. They selfishly served themselves and their distorted ideas.
Historians generally agree the most notorious person in history was the National Socialist Adolf Hitler. He was responsible for murdering an estimated 17 million people, including the inhumane treatment and horrible execution of more than 6 million Jews. His actions resulted in the death of an estimated 50 million people!
“Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” Winston Churchill (1874–1965)
But another person was responsible for the death of an even greater number of people. Communist Mao Zedong committed the largest mass murder in history, killing 78 million people between 1943 and 1976!
“Communism has been the greatest and bloodiest illusion that humanity ever bore.” Gianfranco Fini (1962-present)
Then there was Communist Joseph Stalin, who was responsible for the death of an estimated 23 million people.
“Communism teaches and seeks two objectives: unrelenting class warfare and the complete eradication of private ownership.” Pope Pius XI (1857–1939)
Think about that for a minute. Three dictators — a socialist and two communists — were responsible for killing and murdering more than 150 million people! Add to that the millions upon millions of others murdered by other dictators and similar authoritarian and totalitarian rulers throughout history. The evil in these people is incomprehensible.
May we never forget these evil men and never again allow such atrocities. Yet history continues to repeat itself with the current rise of socialism, communism, and authoritarian rule, even in our own country! Will we ever learn?
May we always remember those who served humanity and the good they did.
To serve or be served
You can see how becoming great or notorious depends on how you treat people. Do you serve those in your life selflessly or make them serve you selfishly? Do you help people gain freedom or enslave them? Do you give people life or death?
Being altruistic or selfless is one of the greatest ways to serve our fellow man. Not only do you help someone else, but you help yourself. It is well established that altruism brings great joy to most people, and Neuroscience even suggests altruism is hard-wired into our brain.
There is no more honorable way to live than to serve one another. In serving, we find the greatest joy and can live extraordinary lives.
If you want people to remember you, begin to serve those you care about and love. Serve them by spending time with them, comforting and caring for them while respecting and loving them. How can you go wrong?
While most of us will never serve as many people as the ultra-famous have or will, we can still serve others in our lives. Who are you serving?
As with all of life, in the end, people matter most. Without relationship, life does not exist. Therefore, it makes sense that serving those around us is the most important thing in life.
To start on or continue the path of greatness in your life, I challenge you to contemplate and answer the following questions:
- Who can I serve?
- How and when will I serve them?