This I Believe

Richie, David S.


  • David Richie mentions a social experiment he tried in which he behaved selfishly one week and selflessly the following, what he discovered is that he felt better when acting selflessly and he believes now that good deeds can only be accomplished through good means.
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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. David S. Richie, executive secretary of the Friends Social Order Committee of Philadelphia, is a teacher, lecturer and social worker, who draws his convictions directly from a wide and active experience with people, both here and abroad.
When I was in college more than 20 years ago at a time of great personal uncertainty and despair, a friend made a proposal I can never be too grateful for. He suggested that I live for a week
just as I please, just as if nobody else mattered, as if the purpose of life was personal, selfish pleasure. After that, he suggested that I turn around and live the second week as I would live if I knew all men were created by a loving father whose purpose was that we should all love one another.
By the end of the first week, I had made every associate either disgusted or mad at me and made myself miserably unhappy. When I suddenly changed into a friendly, generous, cooperative person trying to go out of my way to promote the happiness of those around me, the effect upon myself and my companions was convincingly dramatic. From that time on, I have never had any doubt about the wisdom of trying to devote my life to the welfare of others. I have gone from one adventure in goodwill to another, and as
a result I have been one of the most consistently happy persons I have known.
It has been my privilege to participate in summer international, interfaith, and interracial work camps in a dozen states of the United States and nearly a dozen countries of Europe. For ten winters, I have organized and led more than 300 weekend work camps in the slums of Philadelphia. Twelve or fifteen volunteers join me in making camp in a settlement house in a blighted area. From there, on Saturday, we scatter out in teams of two to needy homes, where we pitch in with the tenants to paint and plaster and do whatever else is needed in fixing up.
What has been the result? The major result has been to convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt of the
eternal rightness of the Commandments of both Old and New Testaments, to love God and man with our whole hearts. We can deny the rightness of these Commandments, as many Russians are doing. We can preach them but fail to practice them, as many Americans are doing. Either way, I think, the inevitable result is increasing tragedy. What holds for individuals holds for nations, because nations are people. Therefore, I must believe that unless we as a nation choose to share life’s good things as wholeheartedly as we are willing to prepare for war, much of the world will turn against us, just as my associates turned against me during that first experimental week in college.
A second result of these projects has been to convince me that men really are brothers. In intimacy of
camp, I found our Finnish and German volunteers were very much the same as our Negro and White American campers. Different religions or bank accounts didn’t matter. We all needed essentially the same things, we all wanted essentially the same things; we all were happiest when we forgot ourselves and helped each other.
A third result has been to prove that demonstrations of sincere goodwill strengthen the good in others. They do become more socially responsible. Whether Polish peasant or Philadelphia slum dweller, they respond to genuinely friendly action in a way that no amount of preaching or coercion could evoke.
This experience, repeated a thousand times, has convinced me that good ends of peace and security and
freedom can be achieved only by good means of friendship and cooperation and love. I doubted that truth until I tested it myself as an individual. But I have tested it, and I have seen it work again and again and again. Now I believe it with all my heart. Good ends for individuals and for nations can only be achieved by good means.
That was David S. Richie, a Quaker educator, who holds that the value of an honest belief rises in direct proportion to the sincerity with which it is not just preached but practiced.