There are points in life when a person yanks herself up by the bootstraps, takes a long, hard look at things, and sets out to accomplish those goals which will make her life ‘a success.’
Higher education. A promotion at work. A big, fat raise to go along with that promotion. Fitting in more gym time to be sure I look great in all the clothes I can buy with that raise.
I had reached one of those moments and was diligently planning this and that thing that I wanted to accomplish when a tiny remark – a short and simple compliment – left my nicely built stack of goals looking rather paltry and unflattering.
It all happened as my mother and I were chatting on the phone, going over the latest news from each others’ lives. “You’re just like your dad,” she said.
Now, this may seem to you a fairly insignificant remark, but let me tell you it stopped me in my tracks. I felt more proud of that sincere compliment than I would have at being elected the first female president, let alone accomplishing any of the goals on my recently-formed list.
My father was not successful by most definitions – he spent his days laboring for low wages and long hours covered in tobacco gum and dirt. He was no one’s idea of beautiful – a hefty block of a man with uncontrolable curls, thick glasses and a sharp v-shaped scar below his eye. He did not travel the world or hold an office or attend college.
But if I could emulate anyone, you better believe it would be my father. For all of the ways he may have not reached the world’s standard of idealistic, he was the kindest, most humble, selfless and unfailingly generous person I have ever known.
He never hesitated to work hard, and was always happier when he was doing it for someone else than for himself. He never met a person he didn’t like, and never placed himself above others. A constant jokster, he was always trying to put a smile on someone’s face; but he was serious and unwavering when it came to his faith and his family.
It is so easy in this culture to measure a person by their occupation, their income, their appearance, their education; and even easier to try to measure ourselves by these standards.
I often fall into the frustrating vat of self-chastisement, listing all of the things I need to accomplish in order to become ‘accomplished,’ and I become too busy to work on the things that really, honestly matter.
Racking up degrees will not make me or my loved ones any happier; but being kinder will. Earning a bigger income will not make me a better person; but being less judgmental will. Having six-pack abs will not enrich the lives of those around me; but being more generous will.
I certainly do not mean to say that these other goals are not important or beneficial, but sometimes the most important things to strive for are the ones that we overlook.