At the funeral of Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony stated, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” It’s probably true that human acts of benevolence and compassion often die with the giver.
But not always.
At last count, I’ve received 64 sympathy cards and notes after Frank’s death. Many of them contain comments relating some story of his kindness. I’ve bound them all with a yellow ribbon for remembrance for my grandchild to read some day if she wants to know who her grandfather was. She is too little now to understand why he’s no longer here, deciding instead that he has gone to the doctor because he didn’t feel well. It’s too soon for the heaven concept.
From those cards, I’ve also learned things about my husband’s generous heart that he never shared with me, I guess because he preferred to keep his good deeds to himself.
One note, in particular, from Martha Bradford, a fellow teacher, related a story Frank never mentioned to me. Here’s what she said:
“Frank was a compassionate, dear friend who did so much to help the young people under our charge in Fort Walton Beach High School. Most of all, I remember how he would listen to the problems of others and then search for a solution. I often referred troubled children to him because I knew that Frank would find a way to help them.
“Some time ago a Destin student let me know that she was having problems at home. I asked if there was anything that she needed. She replied that she needed a pair of shoes ... that she had been wearing the same pair of loafers for 5 years (her only shoes).
“I talked with Frank, and we came up with a plan. I took her to the mall and bought her a good pair of shoes, and Frank managed to provide her with clothing and other personal needs through a Destin charity. Years later she returned to FWBHS to thank Frank and me.
“She said that she had finished college and now worked on base as an environmental engineer. She said she would never have made it without our help. Frank turned her life around. This young lady was one of thousands at FWBHS that he helped.”
A former charter customer wrote to say how kind Frank was to his little boy, making sure the child caught a big fish and letting him sit up at the helm to “drive” the boat. That young man never forgot the thrill of that day fishing with Captain Frank.
I tell you these stories, partly to praise my Frank, but more so, to make an important point.
It’s often been said that we should live our lives so that at our funerals, the preacher won’t have to struggle for good things to say about the departed. And also to leave behind a lot of folks who truly will miss us.
A life without performing random acts of kindness is an empty one as well as a selfish one. To avoid an empty life that won’t be greatly mourned, Charles Spurgeon advised, “Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” Leave acts of kindness behind as your legacy. Perhaps some people will forget the good you did them, but many won’t, and they’re the ones who keep alive the memory of a good person.
This week, allow me to encourage you (and myself) to do at least one kind deed for another human being. It doesn’t have to be big or lavish. It can be something as simple as letting someone with a few items ahead of you in the grocery checkout line, giving a heartfelt compliment, providing a listening ear for someone who needs to share a burden, or taking the time to give a stranger directions even if you’re in a rush.
Actually, the person who gives kindness often receives a “feel-good” blessing that uplifts his own spirits. So, the giver gets something personally wonderful from his generosity, even if it’s done in secret and nobody else will ever know about it.
It’s like that Tim McGraw song:
“I loved deeper, I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying … live like you were dying.”
So, my friend, love deeply, speak sweetly, and forgive someone.
It’s the good we do in life that we leave behind after we are gone from this earth.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.