I admired Tiger Woods for practicing long hours and working hard to be the best golfer ever, while giving his father and others credit for his achievements. Lance Armstrong was another hero, whose motto, Live Strong, seemed a good fit for a man who worked and trained hard to overcome a tragic disease. Both of them seemed to show that success came through hard work, dedication, and single focus. Perhaps that focus on themselves led to later assumptions about being entitled to all the goodies in life. They never saw the others around them as people. They broke promises, cheated others out of their own achievements, and cast doubt on the American ideal that you can get ahead through hard work. Apparently claiming an award, even if unearned, was enough. Now the sponsors and TV reporters have dropped them from the spotlight. I wonder if they feel the loneliness which someone called the “poverty of self.”
My nephew, Nate, died in an accident last summer, while having a picnic with friends and family at his favorite lake. He was an excellent neurosurgeon who touched many lives in his profession, and who could have gone off to one of the big famous hospitals for national recognition. Instead, he chose to return to his hometown to be a good son to his ailing father, a generally delightful husband and parent, and a contributing citizen to his whole community. His achievements were not solely due to his own hard work, but were also due to the support of his friends, community, and family. He gave back to all of those, and has laid a foundation for others to achieve and maybe even surpass him.
I think (my naïveté again?) he was typical of his generation. Like many of his peers, he exemplified the American values that pundits insist have been lost. They aren’t lost—they are just unsung. His siblings and cousins and children and friends are also living up to their potential as good citizens, not as icons with a single talent. These children of the baby boomers play hard, work hard, enjoy their gadgets, and are exceptionally involved parents—I see them all around me here checking on their own parents’ well being. They should be the heroes of the world.
Nate’s family just sent me a bumper sticker in his memory. The motto reads, Live Your Best Life Ever. It’s posted on my refrigerator for now, tho I will eventually stick it in my car window--a nice change from many self-centered bumper stickers I’ve seen in the last few years. “We’re living on our children’s inheritance.” “He who dies with the most toys wins.” “Honk if you love------”
It’s a wonderful slogan to remember him by. It’s a motto he believed in, but not in a selfish way. If the way he lived his own life is any guide, it was never focused on getting the most toys for himself. His “Best Life Ever” included enjoying all facets of living, including helping others live their own best lives.