The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
A recent Wall Street Journal column encouraged readers to pass along a legacy of values, not just a list of valuables. Children and grandchildren should know more than the location of bank accounts and the safe deposit box; they should also be aware of life lessons.
Our children probably have a good idea of what we believe and how we react. But Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University professor and founder of the Legacy Project, believes adults should write down or film their core philosophies.
As a new year begins, I jotted down a few things I believe.
All work should be honored and no job should be demeaned. A plumber does not have less value to a society than an attorney. In fact, I was appalled last week to read the comment of a former Cottonwood High School athlete now playing in the National Football League that if it weren’t for a certain millionaire donor and coach, “I’d probably be working at the airport throwing bags on a plane.” Sorry, but not everyone aspires to be an offensive lineman, and the guy throwing my bag on the airplane is more important to my life than on overpaid, meaty imbecile with a helmet.
An education must be more than a ticket to a job or a career. Most people end up switching careers anyway, and an appreciation of a well-crafted novel or play or an understanding of history is more important in life than a student’s GPA or rank in class.
All history is biography. History is not mostly documents or obscure dates. It centers around men and women rising to the challenge and confronting events. Many are criticized (Pres. Franklin Roosevelt for being a “traitor to his class” for proposing a Social Security safety net or Pres. Lincoln for opposing the spread of slavery in western states), but we can learn from their leadership and see the importance of their wisdom.
Displaying kindness is vastly more fulfilling to a human being than displaying wealth or status. One of my most memorable evenings during this past year occurred at a restaurant when my wife and I noticed a young couple worrying over the price of their special-occasion meal. Upon leaving the restaurant, we bought a $50 gift card, handed it to the couple’s waiter and told him we were buying their dinner, and then we slipped out unnoticed. Their dinner was as satisfying to me as my own meal.
See risk as an opportunity, not necessarily something to be feared. This doesn’t mean you should invest in get-rich-quick schemes or refuse to buckle up seatbelts. But as Pillemer states as his core value, “What you are going to regret is what you didn’t do rather than what you did. It’s criminal if you don’t take advantage of opportunities that come up in your life.”
Don’t make hasty judgments about other people’s behavior. The Native American adage that you can’t judge a man unless you’ve walked in his moccasins is as true today as ever.
These are just a few observations I’ve tried to pass on to my children. They might not believe all of them, and that’s fine. Everyone needs to discover their own set of values based on their own experiences and reading.
But one thing we can all agree on Й let’s hope that kindness, mercy and wisdom prevail over greed, hatred and envy in 2013.