I was part of a little family crew tearing out a fence on family property in Richfield several days ago. It was a stubborn, difficult job that took several different work sessions over the course of two or three weeks.

The wrought iron posts were as deep below the ground as the fence was above the ground. Big rocks had been strategically placed underground to secure the fence to make it last for a long time. I suspect it had been there for nearly 100 years. I could go on about the fence, but that’s not the point of the story.

Part of the time while on the job there I was working alongside my niece. She didn’t have to be there, but she chose to be there as she knew that the help was needed. And that’s the point of the story.

As part of our conversation, she told of hearing a guy from Redmond (one of the Bosshardts) give a “fireside talk” several years ago. He started the talk with the introduction of: “What I’m going to tell you tonight is going to ruin your life.”

He related the experience of having been driving somewhere and passing a garbage can that was tipped over with some of the trash spilling out. He thought to himself, “Someone ought to do something about that.”

A while later, he happened to drive past the garbage can again. The trashy situation was somewhat worse than it had been the first time he passed by. His thought this time was, “Someone really ought to do something about that.”

As you might guess, as stories like this often go, the fellow drove past the messy trash can a third time. And perhaps, as you might guess, he slowed down and thought, “Maybe I’m the someone who ought to do something about this.” He stopped. He picked up the trash and secured the garbage can. He became that person who ought to have done the act of service that made that little piece of the world “right again.”

Evidently, the event had an effect on “our hero.” He began to see things more often from a different perspective. When he saw situations where he could help, he was reminded and prompted to say to himself, “Maybe I’m the someone who ought to do something about this.”

My niece told me that a while back she was on a little road trip with another girl she had been friends with for a long time. They drove past a sizable rock which was in the road. The friend pulled over and stopped. She facetiously said to my niece, “Sorry, I heard a talk one time that ruined my life.” They got out and moved the rock out of the roadway.

I know quite a few people whose lives have been “ruined.” They can’t seem to be “normal” and simply mind their own business. They are constantly thinking of others and doing nice things for them. They even help strangers.

They stop when they see U-Haul trucks and moving vans at houses where people are either loading or unloading. They help people carry packages in or out of the post office. They hold doors open for people.

They sometimes pay for someone else’s burgers at a fast food place. And if they’re my niece, they come help with a family project, even when there’s lots of other things that could be done that would be a lot more fun.

There are many Sanpeters whose lives have been ruined in this manner. Somewhere along the way, they’ve been taught to care about others. Maybe it was their parents “fault.” Maybe it was someone at church who preached the Golden Rule, “…do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)

Somewhere, somehow, these “ruined” people became cursed with the voice in their head and heart that tells them, “Maybe you’re the person who ought to do something about this.” Their lives were changed.

Of course, the “life ruined” aspect of this concept is quite simple to understand. Someone who has developed the attribute of being a helper to others, and society in general, can no longer go merrily along the road of life ignoring the tipped over garbage cans.

The easy life of using the excuse of “minding one’s own business” disappears. Life is “ruined.” But, I would give my opinion that life becomes happier and more rewarding when “ruined.” That opinion comes from whatever degree of a “ruined life,” I have been able to adopt in my life.

If, by chance, the writing of this column has ruined anyone’s life to any degree whatsoever, I’m glad. — — Merrill

P. S. Consider these “ruined life” quotes:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?—Martin Luther King, Jr.

No one has ever become poor by giving.—Anne Frank

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.—Babe Ruth

(A list of quotes iS not complete without a baseball or sports quote, even if off topic.)

The happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others.—Gordon B. Hinckley