Striving to Inspire
I heard a beautiful eulogy last week:
He “worked to bring the hope of Christ to people’s lives. He also built bridges of solidarity to people of other faiths as a leader in ecumenism and inter-religious affairs…. The most fitting tribute we can offer is to carry forward his episcopal motto in our daily lives: ‘Do the work of an evangelist.'”
Those words – uttered by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) about his dear friend Cardinal William H. Keeler (retired Archbishop of Baltimore), who died last Thursday – struck a chord in my heart.
I thought – “Wow! I hope someone somewhere can say something like that about me” because I am striving to lead a life in which I am inspired and I can inspire others. I was reminded that each day we are writing our eulogy – the foundational document of our legacy – with our lives.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the things that society defines as success – things like money, social status and power. But those are resume builders and not the things of which eulogies are made. Eulogies are made of the way people remember us, of how we live on in the minds and hearts of others.
Maya Angelo challenged us to be mindful of that when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I want people to remember that I made them feel good, that I made them feel happy, that I made them feel enthusiastic, that I made them feel special, that I made them feel hopeful, that I made them feel valued.
It’s easy to get consumed by work; to take for granted the very people and things that sustain us; and to let technology drive us into a stressed-out existence. In other words, it’s easy to miss our lives even when we’re living them.
No matter how much time we spend burning the candle at both ends, chasing the societal definition of success and generally missing out on life, the eulogy is always about the other stuff – what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to the lives of the real people around us, small kindnesses, and lifelong passions.
Eulogy or Resume?
So, I guess the bottom line is that we have a choice in determining whether we want to live for our eulogy or for our resume.
Perhaps living out Cardinal Keeler’s motto – “Do the work of an evangelist” – is a way to live a eulogy that impacts the lives of others in a meaningful way.
Doing the work of an evangelist requires that we deepen our faith and that we go forth to proclaim the Gospel. I can’t think of a better way to proclaim the gospel than by touching the hearts and minds of others with the way we live our lives.
When people see a pattern of love and hope in our lives that points to our intimate relationship with God, we can invite them to know the fullness of that love and hope.
Be a Bridge Builder
I think when Paul challenged Timothy “to do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5), he was advising Timothy not to get so caught up in his daily responsibilities that he would lose his zeal for sharing the gospel message.
In that same spirit, I view the words of Cardinal DiNardo as a challenge to not be so focused on building our resumes that we neglect the things that eulogies are made of.