“Be nice to the dog and don’t do meth.” These words of advice came from a father who distilled all his hopes and dreams for his son into these two rules. I know this because I read a book written by Heather Lende called “Find the Good.” And as you have probably figured out from the title of her book—that is the wisdom she wishes to pass on. The other advice, from her friend John, is both cryptic and wise, but she says that hers, to “find the good” is “enough”. In fact she says it is “plenty” and is satisfied with leaving those words behind for her family.
She came up with these words after being assigned an essay with the premise of “describing one piece of wisdom to live by”. Her response, after some speculation and reflection was that if “indeed all the wisdom I had in my heart was to be summed up in final words and it was difficult to speak more than say, three, what would I rasp before my soul went up the chimney?” And the three words she came up with were “Find the good.”
Among other things, Lende writes obituaries. And I do not mean the ones that appear with a picture in the paper announcing a death. She writes in-depth stories about people’s lives after interviewing their loved one for her local weekly paper. She lives in Alaska, in a town about the size of Kingsville. And she knows personally many of the people who have passed on. On occasion she finds a stubborn subject, where the only positive thing that can be said about the person who passed on is that “She kept her stove clean.”
Now how do you “find the good” in that? Lende did. She said that the stove the woman had kept clean was not of modern day vintage, but one of those black monsters seen in kitchens years ago, or in kitchens today of those who nostalgia has blessed. Keeping one of those gigantic stoves clean was a process and a challenge, thus the woman who kept her stove clean was diligent. And as an aside, for those who believe that “cleanliness is next to Godliness” (of which I am not a proponent) then the woman’s virtue was not in question.
I have, of late, taken much interest in obituaries and have found many are of the variety that clearly depicts the personality of the person who has gone on to an alternate universe. In fact, I have written a few. But in the back of my mind, I always think that it is too bad the person is being lauded after their death and not before.
Lende differs with my opinion that obituaries are “too little, too late” and I cannot totally disagree with her. She says “Writing obituaries is my way of transcending bad news. It has taught me the value of intentionally trying to find the good in people and situations, and that practice—and I do believe that finding the good can be practiced—has made my life more meaningful.”
I would like to take her philosophy and apply it to the living. I think we should all practice finding the good in people. I think we should try to “find the good” in people while they are still on earth with us, walking about, drinking coffee at the local coffee shop, getting groceries, and just doing the things we do in living out our lives.
Admittedly, we all have a few people in our lives that we would have to dissect pretty extensively to find the good (and there are a few where this dissection may not work), but on the whole, most of the people in my life are “good”. I have a number of good and generous and loving friends and family members, who by their sheer numbers prove that “finding the good” is not hard.
Good can be defined any way you want it to be; but in order to be labelled good in my book you have to be kind. That is how I measure people. If you are kind, then you have all the other qualities needed to be a good person; you are decent, noble, pleasant, fair, caring, compassionate and considerate.
If my obituary merely reads that I was kind, I would be happy.