Tag: useful

The three sieves of Socrates

One day someone came up to the great philosopher and said to him:


“Do you know what I just found out about your friend?”
–    “Just a minute,” replied Socrates. “Before you tell me, I’d like to set you a test. The three sieves’ test. Before you tell me all sorts about other people, it’s a good idea to take the time to filter what you want to say. That’s what I call the three sieves’ test. The first sieve is truth. Have you checked that what you want to tell me is true?”
–    “No, I’ve only just heard about it…”
–    “Right, so you don’t know whether it’s true. Let’s try the second sieve, kindness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend something good?”
–    “Oh no! Quite the opposite.”
–    “So,” continued Socrates, “you want to tell me bad things about him and you’re not even sure that they are true. There’s one sieve left, usefulness.
–    Is what you want to tell me about my friend of any use?”
–    “No, not really.”
“So,” said Socrates in conclusion, “if what you want to tell me is neither true, good nor useful, why do you want to tell me?”

What about you? Do you use Socrates’ three sieves?

Retired, but not retiring

The scene takes place in my friend’s shop in the provinces. It’s mid-August, and she’s speaking on the phone to a woman whose fridge won’t close properly while gesturing to a customer that she won’t be a minute.

She feels sorry for the woman on the other end of the phone who has a broken fridge door in 40°C heat, and offers to send a technician in two days’ time between previously booked appointments in the same neighbouring village.

When she hangs up, the man in the shop – a pensioner who is a regular customer – apologises for having eavesdropped on the conversation and offers to go and see the woman in question as he is going shopping in the village that same afternoon. He says he will take his toolbox with him and make himself useful – free of charge.

My friend calls the woman back – and offers her the services of the kind pensioner!

My friend subsequently found out that the unofficial repairman went to the woman’s house that day at 2 o’clock– she was also a pensioner – and she was so taken by the man’s initiative that she’d gone and signed up with a charity to offer her dressmaking services.

Making yourself useful, letting people know about it and listening to others are some of the many things I tend to forget when I’m glued to my smartphone.

This anecdote reminds me that life isn’t just a job description, but an infinite possibility of being and feeling useful.

What about you? How can you be useful – before or after retirement?