I came to an obvious epiphany the other day - one that most people probably realize at a far earlier age than did I. And I guess I did realize it earlier, but never in such simple terms.
What people want most in life is to feel important. We want people to know that we have added something, whether it's a particular skill, an idea, something we said, or even a simple random act of kindness. And in most cases, it's important to us that we not just BE important, but that we know other people recognize it.
If we make something beautiful, say, a sculpture, do we admire it and then destroy it or throw it in the closet? Or is the only reason for showing it to others to bring them enjoyment? Probably not. It's the feeling we get inside when we see their enjoyment. We want to be recognized for our accomplishment, even if it's only when someone pays a sum of money for that sculpture and we never see it or anyone's reaction to it again.
It all comes back to what I believe David Brooks calls "The Woosh". That feeling you get inside that can never be manufactured or achieved without merit. And ideally, in some people's view, that is all anyone should need to be a part of the bigger society. Instead of money for our efforts, if everyone would just do their best to make the world a better place for us all, using our best talents, that is the reward we'd get for making a perfect meal for someone, or growing the best vegetables, or inventing a way to get water to people who live in arid lands. We'd get The Woosh inside.
But getting back to the original point of how we want to feel important, there is one talent we all have, that doesn't involve making or discovering or creating or inventing. It is a talent that may be the most important of all, and that is...the ability to make people feel important! To recognize them, especially at the smallest of contributions - something a person added to a conversation, someone's beautiful smile, someone's poise or talent for making people feel welcome in their home...or for making people feel important. :-)