Remembering the good

In Act 3, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Marc Antony speaks these memorable words:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.

The great English playwright has enriched our language with bountiful wisdom, much of it expressed in positive terms, but not this passionate statement made on the occasion of the assassination of a tyrant. Expressed in simpler terms, Antony is saying that others will remember only our evil deeds after we’re gone, but our good deeds will be forgotten. I don’t believe that, as tempting as it is to nod in agreement, especially in this current political climate. Experience teaches me otherwise.

Memory of one particular day takes me back 37 years to the summer of 1980. Betsy and I were driving in southwestern Colorado en route to Mesa Verde National Park in a rental car when a flat tire stopped us on a busy, four-lane road not far from our destination. The weather was oppressively hot, and our three daughters in the back seat were tired and cranky. No sooner than I had pulled off onto the shoulder when a battered VW van pulled up behind us and a tall, bearded man named Crawford climbed out and offered to help.

The passage of time fades some of the details of what happened following that moment, but I clearly recall that Betsy and our girls spent a pleasant afternoon in the company of Crawford’s wife and children at their home in the woods where they kept several playful pets, including a raccoon, while Crawford and I managed to get the rental car back in action. It turned out that more than a simple flat tire needed attention on that car, and we lost another day and more money than we could afford to deal with it.

But every member of our family will remember the kindness of the Crawford family of Colorado and the day we spent with them for the rest of our lives. Without a doubt, their kindness has influenced the way we try to deal with others in need, paying it forward. Through the years, our lives have been made better, thanks to the kindness of others, in more ways than we ever could count. Our experience with the Crawfords was just one memorable example. It’s important that we remember them.

At our age, we attend a lot of funerals, and we read the obits to note the passing of others with whom we have been acquainted. Both are filled with praise for the good that lives on beyond the grave. We don’t hear much about their evil. Shakespeare was wrong on this one.


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