Living Right

Yesterday, I attended a funeral for the father of a friend. He was 95 years old, and lived a wonderfully full life until his health rapidly declined. The memories that were shared about this precious man were incredible to hear. He truly was someone who “lived life right.” That isn’t to say that he didn’t make mistakes. We all do, including him. But he was described as someone who “believed everyone was as honest as he was.” He worked hard, he loved hard, he put others first, and he never harbored bitterness or negativity. I think a lot of that had to do with his faith, but a lot of it had to do with his character too. He never worried what others thought of him because he was always considerate and confident in his intent. His funeral was short and sweet, because his long life had already told the story of what a kind soul he was.

Shortly before arriving to the funeral, I received a Facebook message from someone with whom I once volunteered. I would consider this person an acquaintance; not really a friend since we had never done anything outside of events together. However, if I ran into this person around town, I would speak. I would ask how he’s doing and genuinely care about his response. His message was questioning why I had unfriended him on Facebook. He was immediately defensive and questioned what he had done wrong to cause my actions. He wanted to know what he could do to “fix our friendship.” After the funeral, I learned that a short 30 minutes after he contacted me, this individual had also posted a rant on his Facebook timeline. It stated something along the lines of “if you’re going to unfriend me… please be an adult and send me a message as to what the problem is.” He continued by stating that if “you’re not adult enough, you did not need to be on my friends list anyway.” It was full of bitterness and negativity, and self-consciousness.

Of course when I confronted my acquaintance, he explained that the rant was about someone else. I started to question if that was an honest statement… but I didn’t. All I could think about was the beautiful celebration of life that I had just witnessed, and how much society today puts more weight in social media friendships than they do about living life right. I can’t begin to imagine what someone sees and experiences in 95 years on earth, but I often wonder what previous generations must think about my generation and those that follow. When did unfriending someone on Facebook become the judgement of our character? When did bullying someone behind a computer screen become so acceptable? When did honesty and putting others before yourself become a thing of the past? Why are people so bitter and negative these days? When did we lose our dedication to do the right thing and be our best?

I haven’t been able to get my friend’s father off of my mind. What an incredible example this man was to his family and friends, and to his community. It really makes me think about my life as I enter into my 40s. If my health rapidly declined, would my funeral be short because my life was full? Or would I be remembered for my Facebook rants and my constant unhappiness? It is really something to consider, isn’t it?

When you work hard, love hard, and put others first… you don’t have to worry what people say about you. You can be confident that your life speaks volumes for your character. In my next 40 years, I want to live a life so full of love, kindness, honesty, and selflessness that the only words that need to be spoken at my funeral are “…until we see you again!”

Out of Character

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

I have been blessed with amazing people in my life. People who do things just because. I have been overwhelmed by their generosity, whether I have personally been the recipient or simply a bystander. I like to think that people are genuinely good, and are always a cheerful giver.

I have recently been exposed to a growing population of donors who seem out of character from those I have described above. It has me questioning if a greater part of society now has ulterior motives when charity is involved. For example, I had one guy tell me that he donated because he wanted the recognition. And a girl confessed that she only gives if she gets something like a t-shirt out of it. Charity, to them, is seen as a good deed in which they receive an immediate reward. In their cases, they justify giving for superficial or materialistic reasons. Upon further questioning, they knew very little about the organizations that they contributed to… and they weren’t concerned about how their donations were put to use.

Even local businesses seem to want to gain from charity events. My brother has been planning a tweetup to benefit a local food bank. He and I were both shocked at the number of restaurants wanting us to pay to reserve a space. Similar events hosted by my brother have driven large amounts of people into businesses. When he explained that he would bring in new customers, increase sales, and promote the venue in exchange for a small space to hold the charity event, the restaurants still asked for money.

So, I have to ask… does anyone give to support a valid cause? Or more so, does anyone give from the heart, just to give?

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Giving should not just be confined to our debit cards either. There are many ways to give without money being involved. If making a monetary contribution leaves you feeling less-than-cheerful — which in this economy is possible — consider giving in other ways. What makes you happy? If you enjoy cooking, make a little extra and take part of the meal to a local soup kitchen. Are you a shopaholic? Try eliminating an article of clothing for each new piece you purchase, then donate the old clothing to a nearby homeless shelter. Love music or art? Contact area nursing homes to schedule a time to make crafts with or sing songs to the residents. Do you like when someone gives you a compliment? If so, extend a nice comment to a stranger. Even telling someone that you love their outfit (and mean it) is a way to be charitable. Whatever fills your heart with happiness, take the time to share that with others. Giving without expecting anything in return will be more rewarding than expecting a t-shirt.