Recently at the funeral of a good friend, the minister cited a litany of special things the departed man had left behind. Among them was his unwavering devotion to his family and his sincere and constant willingness to serve his community making it a better place for all of us.
The preacher also stressed the man’s individual service on any number of boards and committees improving the quality of life for everyone. Certainly, it was a proper and fitting message for someone who had given so much of himself to others.
After that touching service, I couldn’t keep from thinking about an elderly neighbor I had when I was a youngster growing up in England. He had been the lone victim of a hit and run driver and was confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.
Mr. Hobbs (funny, I don’t believe I ever knew his first name) loved to sit in his abundant backyard and watch the birds splashing and playing on the birdbaths he had provided for them. He also made certain that each of the several bird feeders in his yard were always filled.
One of the things he enjoyed most was collecting the feathers of the green finches that loved to visit the oasis that was his yard. Then he would tuck them safely away in the pages of his many books lining two walls of his living room.
Mr. Hobbs was quite the philosopher who never let his disability and being unable to walk prevent him from enjoying his life.
“People,” he once told me, “are just like those beautiful finches who drop their feathers. Just like them, day after day, we leave part of ourselves behind no matter who we are or where we go.”
I’ve never forgotten that sage bit of wisdom old Mr. Hobbs shared with me. Like those playful birds, we do leave things behind that tell a story about who we really are. And so, what is it exactly that we leave behind on our life’s daily journey?
Do we shed kind words and thoughtful deeds? Do we provide good works and give encouraging praise for others to receive? On the other hand, do we leave nothing but angry speech and unpleasant performances? Do we leave the “feathers” of who we are in a way that is colorless, ugly and filled with malice?
Each and every day we leave some kind of imprint of ourselves that others see and feel. It’s a daily legacy we cannot avoid no matter who we are or what we do.
Around 400BC, the ancient Greek statesman and orator Pericles made the following statement: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in the stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
May that be said of all of us.