When I hear offers of ‘thoughts and prayers’ I wonder about the follow through and if there’s no gesture less cliché or with more substance to take its place? Can’t we make deliberately better offstage promises and bigger differences for those we care about?
Next time, to express concerns or condolences, consider the alternative that if you truly want to think and pray for someone, say nothing, lose the comment and cliché, and just take a knee. The silent prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much more than offering what’s become a less than consoling comment ever will.
When you die what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built. Not what you got but what you’ve given. What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught others. What will matter is your every act of integrity and compassion, your courage to sacrifice, to enrich and empower others by your example. What will matter is not your confidence but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a devastating loss at your departure. What will matter is not your memories but those that live on inside those who loved you. What will matter is the why and the how you’ll be remembered, by whom, and for what.
A life is lived significantly not by chance but by the everlasting gift of the choices you made while you were here.
I grew up in a family that tidied up the table before leaving the restaurant, pushed the shopping cart back to its place at the grocery store, returned the change when overpaid, and washed the dish in the sink even when it wasn’t ours. We never knew there were other options and never considered them lessons. Lessons were for learning deliberate choices of conscience between right and wrong, not the simple and obvious courtesies of humankindness. The things that made America great have never changed. The human constitution has.
20 years ago this morning I watched their heroes die, and today I remain determined my children will never watch me die the coward I once was for eight years.
In a puddled pooled of sweat, I awoke on the 10th anniversary morning of 9/11. I’d been a week in seclusion detoxing from eight years of daily drug use. I turned on the news to a dozen or more tearful interviews with the heroes’ children now ten years older and still missing their families.
The regret of how I’d lived all my intoxicated years was no emotional comparison to the pain those kids had endured daily for the past decade. Those scenes were a sobering chance epiphany that I’d been spared from a certain chemical fate and that morning began my journey of 10 consecutive years in sobriety.
The faces and tears of those children, orphaned by tragedy and forever deprived of parents, confirmed I was no hero but that I had been granted a future if I chose it.
It’s not the stuff of heroes and I may never be someone’s, but on 9/11/11 I resumed being a father while those fatherless children still grieved. Some days change an entire nation and some make change possible one day at a time. Some do both.