Recently, as I was being trained as a volunteer for Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, I was introduced to the idea of making an ethical will. Here is my draft ethical will.
To all members of my family, former students, and friends:
My collection of tangible money and property is described in my last will and testament.
Here is a different will involving the ethical values that I have collected during the 80-year journey that has been my life.
I trust that you will consider whether you want to make these values part of your own life. All my life I have been an idea thief, taking some ideas from others, rejecting those values that did not fit into my view of living. I hope you can treat these ethical values the same way.
Being equal. All human beings are equally human, finite. We all had a beginning at birth and will have an end when we all die, as we must. Of course we are not physically equal, some are smart, others not. Some are compassionate. Others are selfish. But before the law, and before God, all of us are equally children of God.
In this commonality of the human race, there is no room for prejudice, genocide, or disrespect for persons who look and act different from the majority.
Giving away love. Perhaps the greatest gift from our Creator is our capability to love God, others and ourselves. Love is a renewable resource. The more we give away, the more love we have to give, I believe.
Loving others is easier said than done. More than 5 billion people share our Earth with us, and many lead lives about which we know little. Foreign tends to mean strange, and perhaps bad.
But we should show real concern when disasters, man-made or nature-caused, befall a people anywhere on Earth. We should try to understand peoples who are different and help those in need.
Loving God is difficult for some because God is invisible. Some people feel close to God and think that they are loved as God’s children. They easily love God back as a supreme Father.
But some people do not believe the invisible God exists at all. And even persons of great faith sometimes doubt the existence of God. This is especially true when bad things happen to good people or innocent children. At times in my life during the rough spots I wondered if God existed or if God had forgotten me and had withdrawn from me.
Being reasonable and responsible. Our Creator endowed us with brains that we can use to make choices in both little and large problems of life. When we use our brains and exercise our free will, we must accept responsibility for the consequences of our choices. And if the consequences harm anybody or any nation, the person who made the choice should suffer the full penalty for wrongdoing.
Enjoying life. I watched as my grandson in elementary school played his first football game. His team lost 70-0. But they kept trying, and one day actually had a first victory.
Sports add to the enjoyment of life in all cultures, I think. But so do other elements like great literature, art in all the art galleries, dance performances, plays and musical presentations, from opera and orchestra to jazz and rap.
Serving humanity. We are lucky to have so many opportunities to help others. Examples are Habitat, Meals on Wheels, Hospice for the terminally ill, Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and support groups for addicts or diseases like cancer. We can measure a life not by how much wealth is accumulated, but by how much help has been given to change lives and make a difference.
Being honest. A person’s word should be legally binding, like a contract on paper. Spin doctors take great pleasure in confusing people, often misleading them.
I have noted that often a presidential candidate in a recent debate sidestepped a question giving an answer that totally missed the whole point of the question. Misleading the public is stealing from the citizens the trust that we should have for our leaders, if they answer truthfully and follow up on promises they make.
Working hard. My brother used to tell me that if anything is worth doing, it is worth doing 1,000 percent. Work hard and seek the satisfaction that can come only from a job thoroughly and exhaustively done.
Too many workers choose the slippery slope of doing as little as possible. These workers have little satisfaction and earn only low wages. Work should justify the salary paid for it. A successful brain surgeon deserves more compensation than somebody who might work hard at a job that requires no skills nor training.
There are many other values that could be added to this list. I welcome your suggestions as I continue to consider what makes for a good life.
Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears on gainesvilletimes.com.