I opened the paper this past week to see that Eli Wallach died at the age of 98. He was an amazing actor who could play so many great roles – my favorite, of course, is Tuco in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. I know that he played in “Godfather III”, Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” and so many others. Just recently I saw part of “The Misfits” where he was a sidekick to Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe along with Montgomery Clift. He simply said, “I love to act.” That is the key to leaving your mark in this life, which means you need to have both the love and the passion for what you do coupled with a sense of humility and respect for your colleagues. Great actors don’t need to steal scenes; in fact, a great actor makes others look even better.
On the other hand, on the front page of the newspaper this past week, too, Italian soccer player Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder to the referee, apparently having been bitten by the Uruguayan Luis Suarez. I would not be overstating the fact that life is ruthless, and people can do anything, including biting other people. It is unfortunate that he was not simply banned from soccer for such an egregious and offensive act of misconduct. Instead of making the bar higher, like Eli Wallach who loved to act and acted until he could act no longer with grace, humility and respect for his peers, Luis Suarez leaves his mark on someone’s shoulder, which is an all-time low.
There are others who leave their mark in different ways, like O.J. Simpson, Lance Armstrong, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, and Osama bin Laden to name a few. When you think of them, one can become saddened by the enormous opportunity that was missed for them to inspire people, lead a nation, or change the lives of young people for the better.
However, when you move your mind in another direction you can think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for what he believes, and the great physician, theologian and musician, Albert Schweitzer, who dedicated his life to the poor and underprivileged.
Making your mark is similar to thinking about your legacy and asking the question, What have I really done with my life? I have asked myself that many times, and I am not very satisfied with the answers I find. If I look close enough, I always say, I could do more – that alone motivates me to do more with my time, my talents, my energy, and the opportunities that are before me.
I have friends who cannot wait until they retire – I am not sure how satisfying that will be for them. All I know is that I seem to be getting better at what I do and there seems to be a lot left for me to do and see during my life. Always conscious of time and how much I have left, I feel an urgency to do even more. I don’t want to hear on my deathbed: I could have been a contender or have a list of regrets of things left undone, unsaid, unfinished, and dreams unrealized. On the other hand, I remember asking my father what was the most profound thing he ever did, and his answer was, having children.
So, the question continues to haunt those of us who still look at life as a journey both of making your contribution to this world and people’s lives and a discovery of the potential we all have to do more, give more, and be more.
In the end, Jesus’ words continue to stalk my mind when he says, “You must lose your life to find it.” It is another case of where Marvin Henk needs to leave his ego at the door before entering a world of more possibilities than he ever thought possible.
“I had an inheritance from my father,
It was the moon and the sun.
And though I roam all over the world,
The spending of it’s never done.”