AS we go through life, we pick up sayings and quotations that have a special appeal to us. One of my favourites is this one: “only those among you will be really happy who have sought and found how to serve”.

That quotation comes from Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965). Schweitzer was an extremely gifted man. At the age of 31, he published a major theological work on the Quest for the Historical Jesus. He was also a brilliant musician and a distinguished medical doctor. It was to medicine that he devoted most of his life.

He is best known for the last fifty years of his life, which he spent as a missionary doctor in Lambarene in Africa. For his reverence for life, he was awarded a Nobel prize in 1952.

The quotation, I mentioned above as my favourite, comes from an address that he gave to the pupils of Silcoates School, Wakefield in Dec. 1935, when he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be. Some of you will perhaps occupy remarkable positions. Perhaps some of you will become famous by your pens, or as artists. But I know one thing: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve”.

Of the pupils he addressed in 1935, there may be a few still alive. As I read Albert Schweitzer’s words today, I wonder was there any of them who took these words to heart? Was there any who remembered his words and who made life decisions based on them?

When Dr Schweitzer made the claim that true happiness is to be found in serving others, he was speaking from experience. He had already given many years to serving some of the poorest people in the world.

He could have had a very comfortable life as a theologian, as a musician or as a doctor in Germany, his home country. Instead, he opted for a life of service as an exile in a foreign country. He was possibly inspired to go to Africa by the philosophy of Jesus: “he who loses his life shall find it”. If that was the case, he expressed his experiential approval of Jesus’ thinking with his own similar attitude: “only those among you will be really happy, who have sought and found how to serve”.