A FEW LIFE LESSONS
April is my birthday month and this year marked a major milestone—
though I’m not going to divulge which.
Let’s just say, I have enough years behind me that this year’s birthday celebration caused me to pause and take stock—stock of me, my life and what’s important. I don’t know if anyone else is interested, but I thought I’d share a few of the lessons the past decades have crystalized for me.
God gives us all different gifts.
Some of us will never make it to the major leagues or the Broadway stage, or discover the cure for cancer. But that doesn’t mean out talents are any less important. We each need to recognize our own gifts, be grateful for those we have and do our best to polish and perfect them so we can use them for good in the world. It is of little benefit to obsess over those we don’t have or to envy the gifts given to others. God surrounds us with people who have different gifts and other talents and we’d be wise to acknowledge them and allow others to help us. Our lives will be happier and more peaceful with this understanding.
Every day you wake up on this side of the turf is a good day.
I believe I have George Burns to thank for this maxim and
I’m grateful for this tiny piece of wisdom. When you’re young, you tend to take each day, each sunrise and sunset, each snowfall, each spring and each fall for granted. But, as you accumulate a few years, you begin to appreciate the possibility each day can bring. When friends, some even younger than you, pass, you thank God for another morning and another chance to make a difference in the world. Even a day fraught with challenges, obstacles and lousy weather is better than no day at all.
I savor the opportunity to drink from the nectar of life for another day.
All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
This quote, originally penned by Edmund Burke in 1729, has been shared, in slightly different language, by such notables as John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the decades, I have witnessed this truth revealed, often in stark reality. There are major evils the world has witnessed and allowed by our collective silences like the genocides in Asia and Africa and more recently, the beating of innocent Asian-Americans in our country.
But this maxim holds true for smaller evils as well. In my life, I’ve watched as bullies belittled and made fun of the weak and the different. I’ve seen tyrannical bosses ridicule, emaciate and chastise those under their charge for no other reason than that they could. I’ve watched as these evils have perpetuated, spread, and even triumphed, because good men (and women) did nothing. I’ve tried to speak up when I could but, if I’m honest with myself, I’d have to admit there were times I did nothing. I’m not proud of those failures and will try to do something any chance I get to confront evil.
It’s okay to make mistakes. Everything you do need not be perfect.
No one wants to look bad or foolish, and failing and making mistakes makes you look bad. There’s no way around this.
But I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, the only path to success is through your own mistakes, errors and bloopers. When I’m giving guidance to my grandkids—and they will tell you I’m very generous with my advice—they’ve often asked, “How do you know so much?” My quick response is because I’ve lived long enough to screw up a lot of things, which brings howls of laughter. Even though my answer is flippant, it is also true. As I look back, I realize that almost anything I’ve had any success with—teaching, parenting, leading schools, writing—I first experienced major failures trying. The years have taught me success resides in continuing on in spite of feeling foolish and learning from my mistakes.
The clearest appraisal of one’s life is the impact you’ve had on others.
As I’ve piled up decades of living, I’ve learned that your worth is not based on wealth or how many possessions you own or which car you drive. Not only can you not take any of those things with you (on the other side of the turf), but the accumulation of these things often do very little for others, on this side of the turf.
I want my life to be judged by how I impacted the lives of others. Did I bring joy or solace to those who needed it? Did I provide help or advice or support when those around me struggled? Did I treat others, especially those who are different or have less than me, with respect and understanding? Did I inspire others by my words or actions to do better? I hope, when I “shuffle off this mortal coil” (Shakespeare), others will believe their lives are better because their lives intersected with mine.
Looking over the humble post, I’ll admit these lines are not the most inspirational words ever written nor are my lessons particularly unique or earth-shattering. But, as I appraise my last seventy years (oops, I wrote that), these are the truths which rise to the top and I thought worth sharing.
I’m sure, with your own life experience of years—or even decades—you certainly have achieved your own wisdom and understanding and no doubt have gained your own maxims. I’m sure life has taught you a lesson or two that now guides your life. Please take a few minutes to leave a comment and share your own life lesson. I’m always looking for new insight and we’re never too old to learn.
Peace, and make today as good as it can be.