Living the Good Life

My company gave the day off last week for the National Day of Mourning for President George H. W. Bush. While my primary intention was to continue cleaning my basement, I did take a break to watch part of the funeral and listening to some of the speakers.

I thought President George W. Bush’s eulogy of his father was a wonderful and heartfelt tribute to his father. The office of the presidency, and sometimes those men themselves, can seem larger than life. But he described his father as a simple, kind and gentle man with a purpose of living Christian values in all his walks of life. And regardless of any one person’s religion, I hope that those values of providing compassionate care and concern for our fellow human beings are something that can resonate above other priorities, other themes, other distractions.

After the sermon, Christian artist Michael W. Smith played his song “Friends”. It was very familiar to me, as a sort of theme song during college, particular at the end of each year as my peers and I went home for the summer and senior friends graduated. The friendship of my classmates and living in community with them on campus is the one thing that I miss most about my time in college. There were always people available to find if someone didn’t want to be alone, but also the ability to be alone when that was preferred. We were able to take time to be present to each other when needed. Conversations were deep. Friendship was easy.

Life after college certainly presented a significantly different dynamic, which I have found particularly difficult over the years. Friends are harder to find. Friendships are harder to make and harder to maintain. Loneliness has been more frequent.

When I occasionally reflect on my own life and history, I can find myself doubting whether I have been successful in living such a value-filled life, even though I certainly aspire to do so. It’s easy to want to measure life based on accomplishments, and I think my feeling of doubt comes, in part, as a result of trying to live a relatively simple life. I don’t necessarily push myself as hard as other people do. I don’t try to accomplish a lot of things, or to accomplish things as fast as I can. Quite to the contrary, my life has always been about performing carefully, deliberately, and with the maximum quality. There have certainly been times where I’ve declined or resisted tasks because I was concerned about not being able to do the best job. And while accomplishments aren’t necessarily a bad part of living a good life, it is probably more worthwhile to consider the kind of accomplishments we have.

During the sermon, the priest recalled an old Christian adage: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” It emphasizes the importance of living out one’s values and philosophy in his or her actions, and not simply by words alone. Rather than “do as I say, not as I do”, this is “do as I do, even if I don’t also say it”. And I believe this is an important factor towards living the good life: beyond holding those values of care and concern for others, putting those into action. By working hard to maintaining closer friendships with those people that have slipped away over the passage of time. By contributing any small portion of kindness on
a particular day to help make the life of another person better in some way: more happy, more peace-filled, less lonely, or less troubled.

And may we all encourage each other to find the good life.

For those who did not watch the funeral, below are clips of the eulogy, sermon and “Friends” musical reflection.

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