A friend was recently telling me about how he deeply admires his father-in-law.
“He is so content, wants for nothing and is almost kind to a fault with others,” he said.
My breathing paused as his love for his father-in-law pierced my heart. I thought about his words and how any of us would be honored for someone one day to say the same of us. If only we could all one day measure up to such a humble and honorable standard.
Going through life is not easy. While the Earth is home to 7.4 billion people, we tend to live within a tiny fraction of people — listening, watching and interacting with them. And no matter how many or few, we must always protect against allowing the outside world to overly shape our personal self-worth or self-importance. To do so is to let go of the anchor of reality and set sail across a sea without a rudder — a dangerous journey.
I’ve been there. And I also believe to a certain extent, most of us have been there at one time or another. The road through life is filled with material attractions and ego-stroking words. Like the sirens in Greek mythology, they work to pull us away from the anchor of reality. And most times, that center of reality is your family and those who genuinely love you.
In today’s world, the siren’s words can be interpreted as the need to accumulate large and glamorous amounts of material objects, accepting hollow praise as genuine and losing your perspective that you are simply another rider on this big blue planet. Our journey and time is temporary — and to a great extent, so is our influence on the world around us.
Which brings me back to my friend’s father-in-law. Many times, the most successful people in the world are playing a different game — one scored by being humble, helpful and honest. They understand the value of not what the world around them thinks, but what those who love them feel. And they know the collection of material objects beyond what they need falls into a larger bucket labeled “wants.” And finally, they know their word is this bond, their actions the signature on what truly defines them to those who they love.
Recently my brother-in-law passed. To say he would give you the shirt off his back would be a literal example of his generosity. He lived a humble life with a few good friends and surrounded by a family’s deep love. And like my friend’s father-in-law, he was content, wanted for nothing and was kind to a fault with others.
The world needs more people like my friend’s father-in-law and my wife’s brother. They are the symbols of who and what we should all strive to achieve in life — a place where we are comfortable with ourselves, focused on the needs of others and know the real riches in life are measured by the love surrounding us and not in our bank account.