This I Believe

Gorthy, Willis C.


  • Wilis Gorthy describes how as a boy he was drawn toward careers that were flashy and important; later in life, he found satisfaction through a career in helping disabled individuals achieve productive lifes.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Willis C. Gorthy is Director of the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled in New York City. He was born in Buffalo, graduated as an engineer from Cornell University, worked in mining, and then in construction engineering for the TVA until the beginning of World War II. After serving as a colonel in the Army's transportation corps, he joined the Veterans Administration, as Director of Coordination and Planning for New York State. In 1949, he began work to rehabilitate and aid the severely handicapped. Here now is Willis C. Gorthy.
Located near my boyhood home was Fire Engine #10. The sound of the fire alarm never failed to bring all the kids in the neighborhood running to watch the engine, pulled by its team of three great white horses, charge out of the firehouse. To an 8 year old, the driver of that fire engine had the most desirable of all jobs.
When I was 12, father took me to see my first county fair. I can still remember the big balloon race, with the balloonists hanging underneath in their swaying baskets. For months afterwards, I dreamed of the day when I too might become a champion balloonist, breaking all records for altitude and distance.
Youthful ambitions change almost daily, often emulating the hero of the hour. But psychologists tell me this is just a normal part of growing up. Even in college, with my interests concentrated on getting an engineering education, I could see myself becoming a builder of great structures and naturally becoming wealthy and famous in the process. To a young man, these seemed to be life’s most important goals.
As we grow older, we come to realize with great shock to our pride that the wealth and position we sought are not going to be attained. I believe that this is a critical time in one’s life. It is then that we search for different goals or a new philosophy to replace the material gods that have failed us. It is at this time, too, that we begin to recognize how important to a well balanced life are such factors as good health, religion, and an interesting job. But above all, I
believe our greatest happiness comes from the satisfaction we get from serving others.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to join the staff of the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled. I welcomed this chance, for here was a job that specialized in helping the most hopeless cripples. The thousands that have been transformed into independent, capable job holders and housewives owe their new lives to the patience and skill of a staff dedicated to this humanitarian work. To be able to share in these accomplishments has given me a feeling of contentment that has made my life really worthwhile.
Not long ago, one of America’s wealthiest men told me that he envied the opportunities I have in my daily work to personally serve the disabled and to help them achieve a life of independence. My friend said this in all sincerity—although he, as
much as any living American, has devoted his great wealth to worthy causes dedicated to helping the less fortunate. Here, in the attitude of this humble man, is the indication of the need that each of us has to enrich our lives by serving others.
Consider also the opportunity that our children give us to help them, and at the same time to enrich our own lives. I am humble that God saw fit to entrust our four children to their mother and me. I know the delight I get from their accomplishments. Both my wife, Ethel, and I look forward to the pleasures our children will bring us for many years to come.
Those were the beliefs of Willis C. Gorthy, Director of the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled in New York. He has told how his life is enriched by his service to others, rather than by his youthful ambitions for wealth and fame.