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Helping others is a virtue that seems to be disappearing in modern society. Our fast-paced lifestyle often leads us to put ourselves before everyone else so that we can get it all done.

But a rising tide lifts all boats, and helping others makes our entire world better off. 

In this episode, I discuss one of the greatest helpers in history and how his good deeds continue to positively affect our society more than 100 years later. 

Show Highlights Include:

  • The desirable characteristic that makes you irresistible and invaluable to everyone around you (1:53)
  • Invaluable life lessons from the little-known American who was one of history’s greatest helpers (3:45)
  • How George Washington Carver is still helping Midwestern farmers to this day and what you can learn from this (even if you’ve never seen a farm) (9:06)
  • 8 “Cardinal Virtues” that can make you a more effective and well-liked person (12:06)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. So glad I could be with you today. I want to talk to you about helpers and being a good helper, and how being a helper really does impact those around you.

I grew up in the 1960s and it seemed like, in my childhood, helpers were everywhere. People looked out for one another back in that day. Folks made sure that their neighbor was just as well as they were. [00:57.9]

From my earliest days, I can remember seeing this particular type of person, whether it was in the neighborhood or at school or in church, whether it was on the Little League field or at the Cub Scout and Boy Scouts meeting, or in high school music class, even in my college years, even in my various careers, there were always helpers at every junction along the way, people who simply and unwittingly offered a helping hand.

It was never about their comfort. It was never about their convenience. It was never about their security. It was always “What can I do to help?” What a quality, friend. What an admirable trait to have, a person who you can depend on, regardless of what happens to be on the television set. You know they are going to reach out and offer a helping hand. That's a very powerful value. It reminds me that values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our attitudes and our actions and our behaviors. Values represent the motive behind the action. [02:07.2]

I grew up with parents that stressed helping as a major value. It was not only our duty to help our neighbor, it was our privilege to help our neighbor. I've shared with you many times the lessons I learned from my father, that third-grade dropout, and one of his lessons was you always showed up early. He would say, “Son, you'd rather be an hour early than a minute late,” and what he was really saying was this. Always inconvenience yourself for the sake of others. You never put yourself in the first position. It's always about looking out for someone else, encouraging someone else, uplifting someone else, helping someone else. [02:57.6]

Oh man, I'm attracted to a helper. I love a person who has a serving heart that may just want to help, not for the credit, not for the accolades, but they just have this insatiable desire to want to help, and it seems like in our fast paced world, finding helpers is becoming more and more of a task.

But today I want to tell you a story about a man who is seldom discussed, but he is arguably one of America's greatest helpers. I want you to listen carefully and, as I outline his background, see if you can figure out who I'm talking about.

This man spent his childhood in Diamond, Mo., late-1800s. He was actually born into slavery. He and his brother survived a slave raid and they were raised by a white family who taught them both how to read and write. The boy had an affinity for the outdoors. He loved the woods. He lived in the woods. He said on one occasion, “I want to know every strange stone flower, insect, bird or beast.” [04:07.6]

He loved anything and everything that had to do with nature. He would paint nature. He would work on plants. He was known among his neighbors as the plant doctor. You took your sick plants to this little boy and he would revive them back to health.

Because he, in fact, was a sickly child, he was spared from the hard manual of the day. Instead he developed this local reputation as one who could take care of your plants and could help you with any of your horticultural needs, right? He would even shed a tear if, while working on one of your plants, he damaged the root system or damaged one of the blossoms.

Southern racism prevented this boy from attending public schools in his community, so he would have to hit your ride or walk four miles to go to one of the Negro schools in neighboring communities. But he always thought if he could get an education, that would be his ticket and he eventually graduated from high school. [05:13.8]

Eventually he would enroll at Iowa State Agricultural College, which is now Iowa State University. He was the school's first black student, which was quite an honor. Even though he could not eat meals in the dining room or board with the other students, he thought these were minor inconveniences in light of the prize. The prize was an education, so he endured. He ate with staff who were also African-Americans and he accepted the benevolence of other people, like a professor who allowed this young man to sleep in his office. He would collect discarded school materials and clothing, and he would revitalize them for his own use. [05:56.0]

And, boy, did he excel in his studies. He even published a couple of articles for the Iowa Horticulture Society. He gained a reputation on campus as being the “green thumb boy.” He made many good friends, even held a campus-wide Bible study, and by 1824, 20 years since setting out alone to pursue his education, this young man earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture and was so respected by his professors, they encouraged him to pursue his master's degree at Iowa State where he also taught classes. Have any idea who I'm talking about? I bet many of you do.

It was about this time when this young man received a letter that would change his life. Booker T. Washington had started a school in Tuskegee, Ala., called the Tuskegee Institute, and President Washington sent a letter to this young scientists saying, Why don't you join my faculty and let's change the world together? I want you, young man, to start an agricultural department, and although Tuskegee couldn't offer him the salary Iowa State did, this young man chose to sacrifice personal comfort and wealth to help educate African-American students. [07:16.8]

His name? George Washington Carver.

Carver's entire life thus far had been dedicated to the pursuit of education and seeking anyone he could help along the way. Tuskegee would give him that opportunity and would eventually place him on a global stage. When he got to Tuskegee, he had painting equipment. He had other kinds of science equipment that he had been able to gather along with his personal belongings, and Tuskegee gave him two dorm rooms, one for sleeping, one for storage and the generous salary of $1,000 per year. Carver set out to teach science to Negro students and never looked back. [08:04.8]

Not only was Carver becoming a world-class scientist, he was on the forefront of recycling for—you see, I love this part of the story—he would go to scrap piles where he would find old hubcaps. Those became specimen trays. Old glass milk containers became beaker bottles. He used everything he had. He did everything he could to help his fellow men.

You know that he made a lot of inventions from peanuts, but he made a total of over 300 inventions, not just with peanuts, but from sweet potatoes and even from soybean. He invented things from soap to shaving cream. In fact, friends, George Washington Carver helped save the economy of the South when ruts in the soil threatened crops. When soil became depleted from the repeated planting of cotton, Carver suggested that farmers plant sweet potatoes and peanuts to replenish their fields. [09:06.6]

To help compensate for a rubber shortage during World War II, Carver invented a synthetic rubber compound to offset the shortage. Apparently, automobile mogul, Henry Ford, made several trips to Tuskegee in an effort to convince Carver to move to Michigan and work for him. I recall one story where Ford offered Carver a blank check and said, “Together we'll change the world,” but Carver stayed right there, mindful of the fact that it took him years to gain access into a university, and now he had these university students in his classroom and he was going to show them how education could prepare them for a lifetime of helping other people. [09:54.2]

And, oh, did his students love him and, oh, did he love to help his students. In fact, George Washington Carver never married, died January 5, 1943. He donated his entire life savings estimated between $50,000 to $80,000 to the Tuskegee College. Why? To help students continue learning.

On a personal note, friends, I remember a cross country trip back in the eighties with my first wife, Trina, and we had two little boys and she wanted to stop in some little town called Diamond, Mo., because she had heard about the George Washington Carver Museum. I had no interest whatsoever. My goal was to make time. “We gotta make time. We gotta be back to this location at a certain time,” and she was persistent and eventually we compromised. We would stop, but we would only stay one hour. [10:59.2]

The story goes in our home, and it's a great family story now, that through the tears and amazement, I dragged that one hour into eight hours. I stayed at that museum so long that my wife and boys even got tired, folks that love museums. I couldn't get enough. In fact, I signed up to be a member of the George Washington Carver Historical Society. Friends, if you're ever in the Midwest portion of the United States, anywhere near Diamond, Mo., you don't have to spend eight hours, but go learn about one of the truly great American scientists and inventors who was on the forefront of recycling long before we were talking about recycling.

He was as concerned with his students’ character as he was their intellectual development. Listen to this list he compiled. This list contains eight cardinal virtues for his students to strive toward and listen to this. [12:06.0]

Number one, be clean both inside and out.

Number two, neither look up to the rich nor down to the poor.

Number three, lose if need be without squealing.

Next, win without bragging.

Number five, always be considerate of women, children, and older people.

Six, be too brave to lie.

Seven, be too generous to cheat.

Eight, take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

Our final word today comes from one of my favorites, one of my heroes, George Washington Carver. In his own words, he said on one occasion, “When common people do common things in uncommon ways, they command the attention of the world.” [13:08.5]

I salute you, George Washington Carver. May you rest in peace. And thank you for not only teaching us to use what we have, but also by giving us a lasting example of the impact one can make when they choose to help others.

Let's think about that for a few days, friends. Oh, I so enjoyed this moment to talk about great, great American, and until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick asking you the most important question I can ask today, How you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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