You Can't Take It With You
Updated: Mar 23
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my mom recently passed away having reached the ripe old age of 90. My siblings and I spent last weekend cleaning her house and getting it ready to put on the market. We encouraged each other to take what we wanted from the house.
Despite the option to take pictures, tchotchke, plates, silverware, and art, my sisters each left with a single box. I choose to take a bit more--one piece of furniture, one painting, and not much else.
A lifetime of goods in a large house and 95% of her possessions will be sold in a tag sale. It made me think about the transience of life. Things my mother loved and kept close to her will soon be scattered to the four winds.
Just as I was getting depressed, I saw a picture of my mother when she was younger and she looked just like my sister. Another sister laughed and I saw my mom. All my siblings and I share a sense of humor and value community service. We all say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We all value family above all. We learned these things from my mother’s model.
I recognized at that moment that our legacies are not left in material goods, but in how we interact with others. I will never forget the day I was sitting in my office and a student from 10 years earlier unexpectedly stopped by. He wanted to thank me for how I handled his behavioral infractions years ago. He told me I had taught him about fairness and accountability. It made my day, nay, my week.
Likewise, I was at an NAIS conference a number of years back when a woman I did not recognize approached me. Unable to handle my look of confusion--I guess I am not a good poker player--she told me her name. I still drew a blank. She reminded me I had hired her years ago, and she came to see me in the summer before she was to start to resign. She sheepishly and somewhat embarrassedly announced she was pregnant and wanted to stay home with the baby. She reminded me that I responded, “babies are always good news and she should enjoy hers.” I had forgotten that entire interaction; she was grateful years later.
It is our actions and interactions that remain with people. Possessions come and go; our effect on people ripple on for a long time.
This is even more true for those of us in the school world. Our lives should be models for our students. Our actions inculcate values more emphatically than the core values on the wall. We have a gift and a responsibility. Sometimes it gets tiring; sometimes it's hard; it is always worthwhile.