Normally I am saddened when someone for whom I care passes away. As I mark time, I’m noticing exponential growth of my sad list. My brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even friends have made their way to my list. But this weekend I began a new list. I’ll call it my “wow, what a life” list.
My uncle George spent 90 years joyfully searching for people to whom he could delegate a task. He found me along the way as well as hundreds more. George had a mysterious gift for telling folks what they were going to do. And, as far as I know, everybody did it. That’s pretty cool, but not the best part. Speaking at his memorial, his son-in-law mentioned how George was known for asking others to take on responsibility for this or that. Probably every one of the several hundred people present could raise their hand if asked if George had ever asked for a favor. But the next question his son-in-law asked was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. He paused, then asked, “When George asked for your help, did he ever ask you to do something for him personally?” That was a “wow” moment. Of course, the answer was no. He never asked for himself.
George’s mission was to make the world aware that Childersburg is the best place in the universe. The superior status of his hometown was not up for debate. You learned this the way he did – by working for it. He did all the things great citizen leaders do – he saw a need and met it. Whether it was launching a chamber of commerce, rebuilding and refurbishing historical sites, or establishing commissions and societies to promote the town’s interests, George made it happen. But, he’d be the first to tell you that he did not do it alone. He was 90 years old when he died. Most likely Uncle George wasn’t up on the 21st Century skills we are so busy promoting these days in education. We fill our computer screens with words like collaboration, cooperation, sharing, teamwork, flexibility, innovation, and problem-solving. We focus on these so-called 21st Century skills because we think they are the keys to our future. Aren’t we silly? Those actions have been around a very long time. Examples are all around us if we are willing to open our eyes.
Some day I want to be on someone’s “wow, what a life” list. I have to be willing to be like George. In the end no one minds your passion, eagerness, and urgency in working to make the world better. When you make the sacrifices, keep the long hours, and do yeoman’s labor day in and day out, you’ll be remembered by countless smiling faces. Hopefully, I will have asked each one of them to do something to make our world better.