Theme of the Week: Redefining Greatness
Bible Verse: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14 ESV
Scripture Reading: Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:22-23
My dad, now in his early eighties, was recently hospitalized for pneumonia. Though he recovered, I wonder if he is nearing the end of his race, and this has caused me to reflect about his life. He grew up in Japan after the war, at a time when the country was devastated and impoverished.
After completing high school, he was admitted to the most prestigious private university in the country. After graduation, when very few Japanese could afford to study in North America, Dad studied at Columbia University in New York City. While a student at Columbia, he attended President John Kennedy’s birthday party, a large celebration at Madison Square Garden, where Marilyn Monroe famously jumped out of a cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” After college, Dad was hired as a broadcaster in London for the BBC. While we were living in England, he was invited to have tea with Queen Elizabeth. Later, when we had moved to Canada, he became a broadcaster for the CBC, and his radio program was ranked second in the world in its category.
To borrow language from New York Times columnist David Brooks, Dad had pretty decent “resumé virtues,” but he had even better “eulogy virtues” (meaning character qualities). He was a man of integrity, humility, and immense kindness. From this vantage point, his career accomplishments, in comparison to his character, feel like a feather on the scale.
Near the end of Dad’s working life, because of budget cutbacks at the CBC, the Japanese broadcasting division was cut. Dad ended his working life walking the hallways and delivering mail in the French-speaking section of the broadcasting company (though he could only speak French haltingly).
As I now reflect over Dad’s life, that humiliating setback at the end of his career also feels like lint on the scale, since it has no bearing on my estimation of him. What matters most are not his professional accomplishments nor humiliations, but who he is.
What matters most are not his professional accomplishments nor humiliations, but who he is.
I am a son, and I am also a father. As I think about our son, Joey, who is in second grade, I do hope that he continues to study beyond high school. I hope he does not have the distinction of being the first person in our family tree, in recent memory, not to go to college. But as I think about his future and look deep into my heart, I know that it really doesn’t matter if Joey ever goes to a great university, or even if he goes to college at all. It doesn’t really matter if he lands a really prestigious job. The only thing that really matters is if he awakens to a friendship with God, his Creator. And one day, if he has any social capital, financial resources, or talent, I hope he will use some of his gifts to serve people who are vulnerable. These eulogy virtues are the only things that matter, and I pray that with God’s help he will cultivate them.
Taken from Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu, Copyright © 2018 by Ken Shigematsu. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
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