A friend recently attended a memorial service for a community leader who had lived a long and fruitful life with many professional successes and personal achievements. Family members and friends in turn spoke about his accomplishments, shared joyful memories, and praised the legacy of faith he left behind. His son, now a grown man with a family of his own, shared that he was shaped - more than anything - by his father's kindness. He related that in his fifty years of life, he never once heard his father speak ill of another person.
This anecdote stopped me cold. In more than FIVE DECADES, this man had NEVER heard his father disparage another person. In our constantly comparing, judging, justifying culture, I don't know many people who can go five hours without speaking critically, let alone five decades...
I think often of the example I want to set for my daughter and the legacy I want to leave behind as a parent and a person. These desires have shaped my professional decisions and long-term plans, as they do for most parents. But how we will be remembered has less to do with the seemingly "big" decisions: what type of work we do and where we live - than it does with who we are around the dinner table, walking down the street, and talking with our family and friends. Our character shines through in the simple conversations and unplanned moments that make up our days.
What if instead of criticizing we practiced kindness? What if we extended compassion to - rather than complaining about - the frustrating colleague, unhelpful salesperson, or rude stranger?
What would it look like to live a life (and leave a legacy) characterized by kindness?