Peggy Noonan, one of the best speechwriters who has ever lived and one of my favorite writers, had some poignant commentary in The Wall Street Journal today. Though writing about Tim Russert’s death, she had some good points for all of us to keep in mind as we go through this life.
In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people." …
I'd add it's not only the young, but the older and the old, who were given a few things to think about. When Tim's friends started to come forward last Friday to speak on the air of his excellence, they were honestly grieving. They felt loss. So did people who'd never met him. Question: When you die, are people in your profession going to feel like this? Why not? What can you do better? When you leave, are your customers—in Tim [Russert]'s case it was five million every Sunday morning, in your case it may be the people who come into the shop, or into your office—going to react like this? Why not?
I’ve always believed the sum of our lives is how we treat the others and whether or not we leave the world a better place than we found it. Hopefully our lives can have the same impact that Russert’s did on those who knew him.