Paying the Rent of Service

Bristol, Lee Hastings


  • Lee Bristol describes his belief in the individual, the individual's role in achieving peace and acquiring happiness through humor, service to others, and faith.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I believe. One kind of beauty is skin deep, the other penetrates to the core, both have their place. As president of the great Bristol Myers company, which makes such things as toothpaste hair tonic and lotions, Lee Hastings Bristol is familiar with the first kind. But Mr. Bristol, as a thoughtful, sensitive person, is even more concerned with the kind of beauty which can best be described as springing from the spirit. Now he explains his creed.
In a complex society and a complex civilization, the individual is inevitably confused much of
the time. But I believe that the basic solution of all world and group problems must first be solved by the individual himself. Now each one of us, whether we publicly admit it or not, has a deeply spiritual side. Not one of us can conceal it—scratch the surface and it’s always there. So first of all—and underlying all my credo—I believe in God and in an orderly universe.
As a mortal, passing through this life for just a limited period of time, I believe that happiness is a truly basic objective—happiness for one’s self and, hopefully, happiness for others. It hasn’t taken too much living on my part to discover that real happiness, which sounds so selfish and so self-centered, is never achieved merely by selfish materialism—it can only have depth and real satisfaction
if it is bound up with unselfishness—with a consideration for others. Service is the very essence of it. It has been said that “service is the rent we pay for our place on earth.” That kind of service brings the true happiness that we all seek.
The antithesis of all this is selfishness, which is outstandingly the greatest world-wide vice. It seems though all the world had the “gimmies,” selfishly grasping for power, and more and more, at national levels, with individuals selfishly struggling for material things at their own level.
Each one of us needs a sense of humor with its balancing factor of a sense of proportion. I believe a sense of humor brings poise and a start towards understanding.
My credo embraces a joyous approach for me toward my fellow man and for collective groups towards each other. I want none of that grim hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that flourished in the early days of our country—a religion of frightening fear of the hereafter. Why, even their old church pews were as uncomfortable as straitjackets! A joyous approach towards living even cheers you yourself—to say nothing of its warmth that eases the burdens of others.
Now I believe that brotherhood can grow from this to help destroy forever the seeds of friction and injustice that stem from group minority prejudices.
If only each one of us can develop a sound philosophy and work out a course of conduct as individuals,
then I believe that we can solve our world problems at the international level. Thomas Mann once gave this challenging definition—I quote: “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” End quote. With faith and good will in our hearts and with peace in our souls and minds, surely we can leave this world the better for our having lived in it.
That was Lee Hastings Bristol, successful New York City manufacturer, who has some very sensible answers to the age old question of “What makes real happiness?”