Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

By Elana B

The title of this post is one of my favorite hymns (text and music by Will L. Thompson 1847-1909), and I had the privilege of knowing a man who embodied this ideal—he sought the good in everything and everyone. He was doing good by finding it, looking for the good in everyone he met.  And no surprise—he always found it!  Not only was he positive about people—I never heard Martin say anything bad about anyone (and his wife, Gladys, confirmed that behind-closed-doors he was no different), but he was also optimistic about the world, not because his life was so lovely and wonderful, and everyone in it was kind, thoughtful, generous, and “perfect”.  Far from it.  It’s just that Martin made a decision early in his life to look beyond behavior that was off-putting, and seek the good stuff that he knew was somewhere deep inside each individual.  He was a remarkable example of Christ-like living.  Not only was he positive in life, but he was that even when he was facing death as he battled pancreatic cancer, which transformed him from a robust, handsome man into a frail and gaunt one.  During that time, there were no complaints or changes in his perspective.  After learning about his illness, I remember seeing him out and about one day, and was shocked by his appearance, doing my best to hide that reaction.  Marty made it easy because he was all smiles, offered me a firm handshake and asked how I was doing.  His body was losing a battle, but his heart and soul were victorious, maintaining that “good in the world” attitude.

Hamlet is alleged to have asked himself, “To be, or not to be? That is the question.”  My version of this personal introspection is based on Martin, so I don’t ask about my sense of being, but instead, at the end of the day, I ask if I have done any good in the world.  That’s an important question.  One that is vital to a life well-lived and one that provides lasting happiness.  If you were asked to raise your hand if you want to spend your time with someone who is negative, sees only the bad, doesn’t see a need to contribute to the lives of others in a positive way, complains all the time, considers himself or herself a victim, is vengeful, etc., I wouldn’t expect to see many hands held high.  I treasure the company of the “Martins” of the world.

If we want to keep company with the best and find the best in others, then we need to become one of them. If you want to become an athlete, you don’t eat junk food and slouch in a chair all day long.  You eat a healthy diet, exercise and strengthen your body and skills—you seek to do everything it takes to become an athlete.  If we want to find good, we have to earnestly seek it wherever we can, and the truth is, it is everywhere!  We need to wear our “best” glasses.  This journey requires effort, constancy, commitment and a change of perspective, expectation and heart.

Best is the superlative form of the word good: Good, better, best.  Best is the ultimate good.  With Marty, I learned from the best about how to find what was good in life and with others, and how to reinvest it in my world.

Being aware of the footprint we leave behind is a current, popular pursuit—finding ways to avoid being wasteful with the use of our resources, by recognizing our impact on the environment. Investing ourselves in discovering the good in our world, appreciating and acknowledging, then reinvesting it to provide more that is good, better, best, we are perpetually renewing life-affirming energy, an emotional and spiritual resource that is just as important as the recycling of temporal items.  Are you leaving “good” footprints behind you?  At the end of my day, when I ask, “Have I Done any Good in the World Today”, can I, like Martin and as the words of the hymn express, say “Yes” to exemplifying one of life’s simplest and most powerful truths, “Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love”?

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