"Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.
But, I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.
This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York . I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human." - Ben Stein
This is a very poignant essay, but I have two caveats.
1) I don't believe we have a "duty" to "help others." To quote Ayn Rand, "a moral commandment is a contradiction in terms."
2) I don't think there's a strong correlation between Stein's view that being a good family man should be one's "main task in life" and his so-called "duty" to "help others." Quite the opposite. A person's family (and close friends) SHOULD come first over the needs and requests of strangers.
Personally, in the last few weeks, I've used the following phrase a few times: "The world just ain't worth it." In other words, while it's a nice idea to help "the world," we should never let "the world" come ahead of the people who know us and love us. That's just silly.