I hope you’ve had a good week, a productive one, some fun times, and accomplished whatever you wanted to. The fall is here, and it’s a great time to rev up our engines, start new projects, finish old ones, —-even as adults, many of us still have a ‘school year’ mentality, and the fall feels like the beginning of a new year. I’ve been busy too, and working on new books for you!!!
In a serious vein, I’ve lost three friends and a family member recently. It’s a sobering experience and leads one to some introspection about life in general, and the people specifically. Three lived to a great age (2 at 89, and one at 90), and one died very young. And three of them made a strong mark on the broader world. Two in artistic fields, in which they were well known, one high up in federal law enforcement, and one of them was ‘unknown’ except to family and friends. But whether ‘famous’ or not, we all leave a powerful mark on our world. All of them were people I greatly admired, and their passing was publicly mourned. The last of them was an absolutely remarkable woman, an award winning French documentary filmmaker and writer, who had survived five concentration camps as a young girl in her teens, including Auschwitz, and was a dynamo of strength, courage and talent, and right up until her last day she was fascinating to talk to, full of energy, always working on a new book or documentary film. She could outstay anyone at a party, smoked, drank, and lived a full life till the end. Interestingly, only one of them had children, the other 3 did not (the three famous ones didn’t, an interesting statistic), all had major careers, and all four lived their lives as shining examples to the rest of us. Three of them were in great form and productive until their last day. They were inspiring to know, and I feel blessed and honored to have known them.
In doing some reading to come to terms with these losses, I came across a Bible quote from Matthew which I have always loved. “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works…..”. All four of the people I mentioned were brilliant examples of that. And in a world filled with social media, and rapidly reported news, we are constantly, daily, hourly assaulted with shocking news and bad events. It’s not so easy to shine in a world filled with the distracting smoke of bad behaviour, and bad news. And yet, these people did. Every day, we have a choice about what we see and what we do, what our standards and values are, and how we treat our fellow man. Do we focus on the bad events? Do we sacrifice our own values, and take the easy road, or the high road? Do we make excuses when we fall short, or keep going on our own road toward higher goals, and lend a helping hand to others on the way? Years ago, when I started writing books in my late teens, my good friend and mentor as a young writer was Alex Haley, the writer of Roots. Famous, successful, he always had time to help others, was always encouraging to young people, and I don’t think I have ever known a nicer, kinder, more extraordinary human being. I marveled at his kindness. (His personal motto was “Find the good and praise it”—-not so easily done in today’s world)
In the scheme of life, being famous doesn’t really mean much, except that it helps you to reach out to more people, and it can be exciting to see your name on a list of some kind, or the cover of a magazine. But what really matters is what we Do. When all is said and done, I think who we are is determined by what we have done, how much good we have done during our time here on earth. That’s not always an easy goal, the low road is so much easier. But the people we stand back and admire at the end of their lives are invariably kind, and have lived a lifetime of small gestures to others that make a difference. It can happen in a moment, in a smile, in a gesture to a friend, or a stranger, an act of kindness that makes a difference to just one person. We all fall short at times, and wish we had done better, given more, tried harder, or been more patient. We don’t always realize what a difference we make to someone else. We don’t have to be internationally known or enormously talented to do good works. We each have the chance to let our light shine every day in the smallest of ways. It’s a nice thing to remember when we are tempted to be short with someone, growl instead of smile, and don’t reach out a hand to someone else.
I liked finding the reminder of that Bible quote, it’s a wake up call, to let our light shine so brightly that it lights up the darkness that surrounds us at times in the world.
The people I knew whose lives ended in the past few weeks were all shining examples of that…..their light shone so brightly, their good works to others (not just their talent) will be long remembered, and blessed everyone on their path.
There is another quote that I love too, by Robert Louis Stevenson, “It is the history of our kindness that alone makes this world tolerable.” And what I remember most about the three lost friends and one family member is not how famous they were, or how much they accomplished, but how kind they were. Maybe in the end, it is the only mark worth leaving on the world.
Have a happy week, and Let your light shine, even in the smallest of ways…..and I will try to do the same.
With much love, Danielle