Will Rogers once said, “You can judge a man’s greatness by how much he will be missed.” If I ponder that statement long enough, I could get discouraged. I am not the type that is gregarious or the life of any party, and I doubt anyone would miss my presence in the most public events; however, there is still something deep inside me that says there is a great purpose for existence, and that every person has a contribution to make. Discovering what that contribution might be is partially what life is all about. Having the ability to explore that space is a basic need and right of every life.
I love the quote inscribed at the resting place of Ronald Reagan, whom this year we celebrate 100 years since his birth. Said he, “I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And, that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
We see, in the world today, a wave of youth yearning to breathe life into their existence. Generations in parts of this world have lived under authoritarian or dictatorial rule for a life time so far, and their frustrations are spilling over in to the streets. There is an entire part of our planet that staggers under 50% unemployment, appalling living conditions, and lack of opportunity, especially for women. These conditions can become lightning rods for significant change to take place; and rightly so.
In our part of the world, we look over their fence and wonder what the changes will result in. Will other authoritarians take root and yet deny the springing forth of renewed hope; or will their victories bring the fulfillment of their long hoped dreams? I believe as human beings we all yearn for the same things. Hope, freedom, opportunity, and a life filled with love, family, and faith. Why certain societies or cultures deny these basic dignities is beyond me; perhaps it is out of fear that their own culture or faith will become obsolete but nothing suppressed can survive for long, not even their (authoritarians and dictators) hope of a controlled environment. I believe respect for other faiths and tolerance of the differences of faith and society will bring the greatest happiness and peace upon the earth. We may not agree with one another, but certainly we can respect their rights, however different.
In 1963, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings, the Mona Lisa, was loaned for display for a short period of time in Washington and New York. It was agreed by appraisers that it should be insured for $100,000,000. How could a painted canvas of 2 1/2′ x 1 1/3′ be worth so much? If the painting was worth that much, what would be the value of the painter? In speaking at the opening of the exhibit, President John F. Kennedy said “At the same time that Leonardo da Vinci, the creator of this painting, was opening up such a wide new world to Western civilization, his fellow countryman from Italy, Columbus, was opening up another new world by his discovery of America. We citizens of nations unborn at the time of its creation are among the inheritors and protectors of the ideals that gave it birth.” It was the ability of both men to explore their dreams that gave hope to generations to follow. The value of the painting means nothing in comparison to the ability to create the painting or explore the world without fear.
The value of a human soul cannot be calculated like the Mona Lisa. The fountain of all hope inside of a human being is that yearning to fulfill the measure of their creation. We live in times of change. I have a hope that, someday, the many nations of the earth can respect each other and their own people in a way that will allow the fulfillment of that yearning of all men and women; and that each life may triumph and the worth of each soul will be realized.
I saw a quote once next to a picture of a butterfly that said, “A butterfly has not years, but moments, and yet has time enough.” Why? Because in the time they had, they could explore fully the space they lived in.
I may not be missed much when I leave this planet, but this much I know: I have had a chance to make a difference and am living to fulfill the measure of my creation, such as I know it. I hope the same possibilities for every life.