Columnist: Take the first step and positively impact people’s lives

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 20, 2015

More than 100 years ago a wealthy man was sitting and relaxing in the comfort of his home, reading the newspaper. His attention was called to the Obituary section of the paper.

Probably believing he was dreaming or was having a nightmare, he was shocked to realized that he was actually reading his own obituary. After adjusting to the shock that he was very much alive, he processed the contents of what was written about him in the paper.

It was not flattering!

References were made about him in the article as “being a Merchant of Death.” He was visibly shaken – the idea that a newspaper could publish such horrific things about him!

At that moment, he realized that this would be his legacy if he did not immediately change the direction of his life by doing something good to benefit mankind. Some who knew him believed that it was God utilizing the vehicle of the obituary to cause him to develop a different sense of purpose in his life.

Greatly disturbed by how he was perceived, and thankful that he would be able to change the course of the remainder of his life, this rich man established awards, which he hoped would clearly distance and exonerate him as being a Merchant of Death. Today, because of his doing so, most of us are familiar with the honored and prestigious Nobel Prizes, especially the Nobel Peace Prize.

The world’s most famous and renowned awards are the Nobel Prizes. Presented for outstanding achievement in literature, peace, economics, medicine and the sciences; they were created a century ago by Alfred B. Nobel (1833-1896), a man who amassed his fortune by producing explosives.

Among other things, Nobel invented dynamite. It was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer in Geesthacht, Germany, and patented in 1867.

The creation of the Nobel Prizes came about through a chance event. When Nobel’s brother died, a newspaper ran a long obituary of Alfred Nobel, believing that it was he who had passed away.

Thus, Nobel had an opportunity granted few people: to read his obituary while alive. What he read horrified him: The newspaper described him as a man who had made it possible via his inventions to kill more people quicker than anyone else who had ever lived.

While relatively few people, even today, know how Nobel made his fortune, he would be happy were he to be alive today, to know that he successfully changed what would have a been a horrible legacy into honoring individuals who contribute to making the world a better place to live.

Alfred Nobel is the personification of the adage: “the good we do lives after us.”

Alfred Nobel Changed his legacy for the common good. Generations after him have benefited from his endowment to honor men and women who work for peace and goodwill. Although Nobel did not change his name, he changed his life.

For the record, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 95 times to 128 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2014, 103 individuals and 25 organizations. Some of the recipients have been:

• Liu Xiaobo, 2010, “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China;”

• Barack H. Obama, 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples;”

• Jimmy Carter, 2002, “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development;”

• Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, 1994, “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East;”

• Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk, 1993, “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa;”

• Mother Teresa, 1983; and

• Martin Luther King Jr., 1964.

Are you satisfied with your life? Is the answer really yes? What purpose have you really served on earth to date? If someone asked you today, “what have you contributed to making the world a better place?” What would you honestly say?

Think about it. Begin today to live a purposely driven life. By the way, it begins with the first step. You too, may have a calling to positively impact the lives of others.

A former Merchant of Death did.