In these fragile times, it’s tempting to cut corners in business and personal affairs. Certainly, in an effort to survive the economic crash, developing an “every man for himself” sort of attitude seems be the next logical step. After all, embedded in our national consciousness is the memory of the Bernie Madoff swindle, the Wall Street bail out by the middle class, and the continuous petty bickering of members of our government’s two party system who appear to be more concerned with mud slinging than problem solving. I fear that “save yourself” is quickly becoming the mantra of the average citizen. And while it may be understandable, it doesn’t make it right.
As we move through one of the darkest corridors of our American experience, I think it’s essential to ask ourselves, not just “how will we survive?” but “how do we want to survive?” And “how do we want to be remembered?” The moral compass of big business and national governments may be spinning out of control, but the rest of us can still find our True North in two simple concepts: personal integrity and a genuine concern for the generations who will follow. When we pilot our organizations and even our families with integrity as our moral compass, we’re resolving to make decisions with an acute understanding that our behaviors matter, that they impact others and that we do not have the right to leave a mess for future tenants of this planet.
So what does holding that concept in our hearts look like in our behaviors? For me it means teaching people to resolve their conflicts peacefully, to mentor the younger generation with whatever knowledge I have to share, and to never let myself think I’m more deserving than the person who’s doing without. For you, it may look like something else. Perhaps your passion is in cleaning up the environment, working to bring affordable housing to the elderly, or insuring a hot meal to a child who might otherwise go hungry. There’s no singular blueprint for caring. But our actions do matter. And most of us want to be remembered as givers rather than takers. Because in the end, it’s our actions, not our wealth, that will be our most sustaining legacy.