Does it make a difference one way or the other?
My reasoning goes like this. I am a human being and recognise there are others who are like me. We each feel pain and struggle to live. I want to live in a kind, gentle world where I can thrive. I therefore should do what I can to make this world a better place for myself and others. I find meaning and purpose in helping others.
Yes, I live in a society and benefit from it, so I feel that I must give back or contribute positively to that society. I like to think that I have made some difference. I've mentored people who tell me I've made a difference in their lives. I don't do it expecting anything in return and don't believe that I'll receive any rewards for it.
I think everyone and everything we do contribute or negatively ipothers and the planet whether consciously or not. For me it is important that I make a positive difference as much as possible or at least to offset the negative effects like garbage pollution etc. Though I fall short, I have a goal of leaving anyone I meet in a better or at least neutral place than they were before. So even if they are upset I am me and compassionate. I aspire to do more by leaving less of a carbon print and purging all the stuff to live in tiny cheaper space to enjoy life more and use less resources. But I strongly feel even the little things like being kind to others can have a ripple effect and transform the world.
In the grand scheme of things, no... Biological success is probably all that really matters; but that's where we are different from the rest of the natural world. Because we do have society, and culture, it's worth preserving, and contribution...
I don't know if it is important to everyone to contribute to society; but we all do it in our own way regardless.
I've made a career of helping people be complete again, through prosthetics, and orthotics- and I find it fulfilling in a number of ways... But, in the end, I do it for my own fulfillment, not ever really thinking of it's benefit to society... Well, okay, I do find fulfillment in benefiting the people who are walking around in the world on devices that I made for them; but is that important?
More important to me is that I get to do something I like doing, and it affords me the ability to enjoy the life that I want.
In the end, we will all be dust, and nothing matters all that much- except to realize that life is fleeting, and precious, and it's as good as we make it.
This has been a very convoluted response to your question, but I guess what I'm saying is no: It shouldn't be important to think you're benefiting society. It's more important to do what makes you happy, and hopefully it benefits society anyway.
Yes Being a good example is great for starters. Growing up my family constantly helped others. My Dad was in his eighties when I walked out to my yard where he was handing someone down on their luck a quarter. He was saying it was the last of his money and it was! I adored my Dad. He was the kindest gentlest man I ever met!
I grew up immersed in community where that was just part of the culture. My parents were activists in the Civil Rights Movement. There are 5 of us kids: two librarians, one teacher, a PT and a nurse, all of us in service positions.
How can one breathe the air, enjoy the natural resources, be alive without paying it forward?