You all remember Snap, Crackle and Pop of Rice Krispies fame? Last night, after working for a few hours on emails, posts, comments, etc., I stood to refill my coffee cup, and I distinctly heard those three characters … in my knees. And hips. And feet. What the …??? It’s likely not the first time I had heard this cacophony of sounds, but … perhaps the first time it penetrated the fog that surround my brain and allowed me to realize that sound was coming, not from a box of cereal, but from ME! Yes, those were my body parts crackling, snapping, and popping! What can this possibly mean??? OH NO!!!
Seriously, though … there comes a point in our lives where we look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “who is that?” Or, “how did I get to this point, and where have the years gone?”
At this point, once we accept that we are no longer 30 years old, and no longer have the world on a string, we reflect. We look back on the years and ask ourselves some tough questions. Was I a good person? If there is a scorecard, did I give more than I took? Did my life have purpose, in the grand scheme of things? What was my single greatest achievement in life? What was my worst mistake, and did I atone for it in some way? And the real kicker … if I had it to do over again, what would I do differently?
Thing is, though, that the answers on Tuesday might be entirely different from the answers on Friday. Take that first question, for example. “Was I a good person?” Well, first of all, define “good”. There was the time that I threatened to beat a lady with a shovel for taking too long checking out at a local market. I wasn’t very good that day. But then, there was the time that I gave a family $1,000 that was most of my own bank account at Christmas to buy gifts for their children. Does one outweigh or offset the other?
And, about that “single greatest achievement in life” … is it my children? Well, one child now. That one child is making a difference in the world every day. She is a nurse, and one who entered the field because she wanted to help people, to dedicate her life to others. I gave birth to her, taught her all of life’s important lessons, taught her to think for herself. Do I get a brownie point for that? No, I think that point belongs on her scorecard.
I spent some 30 years as an accountant … more than once, I compared the field of accounting to a career in prostitution, reckoning that the most successful accountants sold their souls upriver. Twice during my career, I quit jobs rather than break the law or sacrifice my integrity. Does that make me a good person? Doubtful, as somebody else simply stepped in to do the dirty work.
On to another question, then. Did I give more than I took? This one is easy … or is it? I think that yes, I did, but then … did I really? I first thought the answer was a resounding “yes”, but then … I look around. I have given small amounts from time to time to a variety of humanitarian organizations, but … I have also lived a life of convenience. It is snowing outside, and my heat is set at a comfortable 72°. I have a refrigerator and freezer full of food, a chicken is simmering in the crock pot, and quite literally, I want for nothing. Or at least nothing that money can buy. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but neither am I suffering. I spent $89 at the grocery today, $10 of which was for a bottle of wine to help me relax enough to sleep at night, and $5 of which was to purchase the aforementioned chicken. Some people are living on $25 or less for a week. More to the point, perhaps, some people would not see a chicken killed for their own pleasure, so here again, I fail.
So, at the end of the day, I could compare myself to some and be seen as a good person, or to others and be seen as a total dud, a failure. So, the question really is, I think, whether we, each and every one of us, believe we did our best, gave our all. For me, I am not proud of all the times I have put self ahead of the greater good, but neither will I kick myself for the times I have failed, for through failure I have learned.
As we get older, as we come to realized that our lives are on the downhill side, we ask ourselves the questions, we contemplate whether we might have done more … and I think that we will, if we are honest with ourselves, come up lacking. But you know what? I think that just the fact we take the time to ask the questions, to look back, to assess and analyze, says something about our character. I hope that at the end of the day, more people will remember me with a smile than with a scowl.