The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident, you can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources. What is not easily stolen from you without your cooperation is your principles and your values. They are your most precious possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man. Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character.
— Neil Armstrong, USC Commencement Address, May 13, 2005
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.
Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of.
It’s heartwarming to know that good, selfless people still exist in our society. One such person was Oseola McCarty, who died at the age of 91. Her obituary in the New York Times stated that, in anticipation of her death, at age 87 in 1995, Miss McCarty donated $150,000 to a scholarship fund at the University of Southern Mississippi to help poor students. The truly amazing thing, however, was that she was far from a wealthy woman. In fact, she washed clothes for a living, and the $150,000 represented her entire life savings. The selflessness of her gift garnered her worldwide and national attention, and she received numerous awards, shook hands with President Bill Clinton, and was honored by the United Nations. Upon hearing of her donation, contributions began pouring into the scholarship find, eventually adding some $330,000 to the original gift of $150,000… Miss McCarty had this to say about her actions: “There’s a lot of talk about self-esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of. Feelings follow actions.”
Source: Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette’s Portfolio Manager’s Weekly, 7/26/2000
When I was a young boy in Plains, Georgia, a beloved teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, introduced me to Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace. She interpreted that powerful narrative as a reminder that
the simple human attributes of goodness and truth can overcome great power.
She also taught us that
an individual is not swept along on a tide of inevitability but can influence even the greatest human events.
Jimmy Carter, from his Nobel Lecture given in Oslo, December 10, 2002
In college, during the summer months, I was employed as a forestry firefighter. On wildfires, working with hand tools like shovels, heavy rakes and axe-like hoes, we formed up in lines to cut firebreaks before the advancing fires. We were always told by out growling boss to “take a swipe, kid,” at the vegetation with your tools and leave the rest for the person behind you, When you looked back down the mountain at the end of our line of workers, you’d see a clear, clean line of firebreak. We learned that everyone doing a harmonious small act creates big effect. Many of us never lost the feeling that came with that understanding.
–Christopher J. Evans, Esq., Former Executive Director, Surfrider Foundation, Making Waves, August 2004
The life of a man (or woman) consists not in seeing visions, and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanaugh