To be happy serve those around you


Ozodi Osuji

     One of the lessons those of us who are getting on in years learned is what we should have done right in our youth. I have learned from my and from my father’s experience that if you want to live happily and long you must resolve to serve your wife and children; you must see you as existing to serve their welfare, I mean this not figuratively but literally. Resolve to work until you are, at least, one hundred years old and not retire and make money to make your spouse, children and grandchildren happy.

     There is no guarantee that you will live that long but aim that high, it will motivate you. Simply tell you that God placed you in this family to meet their material and emotional needs and work, doing the type of work that your body and mind can do…there are some work that you cannot do, for example, I cannot do physical work, unless I want to die,  today, not tomorrow, nature made my body very fragile but packed it with intelligence so the only type of work that I can do is cerebral work, not physical work and I intend to do so until I die.

      I will keep working because I need to earn money to support members of my family (children and grandchildren). This is because whereas I must love and care for all human beings, as a practical matter, I do not have the resources, money to care for the billions of people on planet earth; I can only care for those that God placed around me, my family, while doing whatever I can to help other people.

      As a mixed economist (capitalist and socialist) and social democrat, I work to make sure that all children go to school, their school fees paid by society, and for all people to have publicly paid health care.

      I observed my father closely; he was a hardworking man but the moment he hit sixty he believed that he has worked long enough and ought to retire and that his children ought to now support him. But some of his children were still at secondary school so who was exactly going to train them?

     No man has a right to retire until all his children have, at least, bachelor’s degrees or technical education so that they can make decent income in the capitalist market. Thus, I insisted that my father should remain at Lagos and keep working (I was then at graduate school in the USA).

    You cannot have children and expect some of your children to take care of some of them for you, that is a most dastardly and selfish thing to do. You had sex and had the children so it is your responsibility to train all of them until they are in their mid-twenties, which is, are university graduates; if you cannot do so, please do not have children because it is not for you to give your responsibility to your children.

      My father tried extremely hard when he was a young man; he traded all over West Africa, from Dakar in Senegal to Lobito in Angola; he knew all the major seaports of West Africa and spoke Igbo, Yoruba, Spanish and some French. The man truly tried to make money and from what I heard he did have enough money to help his brothers but when he clocked sixty, it got into his head that he has been working since he left school and ought to retire.

     His body was like mine, fragile, so he felt all kinds of arches and simply wanted to retire and go stay in his village.

     Alas, we now live in the capitalist economy; therefore, even in the village you still needed money, especially as most of his life he was used to decent food, so how was he going to get that kind of food in his Igbo village?

     His children simply needed him to support them, not them to support him. It was self-centered for him to expect his children to support him when he was only sixty years old.

     The deal is that if he had resolved to support his wife and children until he died, he would have been a happier man than the cranky man he was in his sixties and seventies; he was always complaining about his children not helping him.

     Well, his oldest children had their own families to support, and he was secondary in their minds. It was for him to keep supporting the younger children and his wife until he died.

     This is the hard truth; if you want to be happy resolve to support your family members and not expect them to support you.

     I certainly do not expect a penny from my children even though they all went to universities; it is for me to help them for as long as I live; that is, if I want to be happy.

      Living for other people, especially for your family members is the surest way to be happy; the moment you want other people to support you, you are going to be unhappy.

     If a wife resolves to help her husband and children (as my mother did), she is going to be happy and live long, but the moment she complains to all who want to listen to her about how her husband no longer cared for her, as my wife did, she is going to be unhappy.

     I had a loving wife but like my father she began complaining about me not loving her even though I worked my behind off trying to make money for the family. She became very unhappy. I believe that if she had put her family’s interest ahead of hers, she would have been happy and lived longer.

     One must focus on making one’s family members happy and serve their material and emotional needs until one can no longer work; if you do so you will live happily.

     I certainly hope to be able to serve my children and grandchildren until I am one hundred years old; I do not expect a penny from them. It is better to give than to receive.

     Listen, I am not blaming anyone; as I said at the beginning of this essay, I have lived long enough to know some truths of our existence. When you are past sixty you have gained enough experience of life to be able to know what contributes to human happiness.

      When I was young, I used to think that I was doing other people a favor by helping them but now I know that those I help are doing me a favor. This is the voice of age and experience speaking, it is not what I knew before age sixty; therefore, I do not blame youth who expect to get and do not want to give.

    If you want to be happy serve those around you and if you have the energy serve all mankind in some way, the way your ability can enable you to do so; service is not always measured in money; I have had over forty years of working in the mental health field and learned a thing or two from it and from that experience know that it is better to serve, to give, than to be served and receive; of course, it is useful if we are in a give-give situation but do not wait for other people to give to you, give to them, and if they do not give to you, do not complain about it.

     I am not just engaged in dishing out moral platitudes and pithy aphorisms; when I behave as I just said I tend to be happy and when I sit around expecting other people to help me and not helping them, I tend to be unhappy.


 Some of my grandchildren are living with me; life has become happy, again; it is as happy as it was when I was raising my three children.

Ozodi Osuji

June 22, 2022

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