I’m almost fifty. Well, I’ve got two years to go. I hear I’m supposed to dread it, but fifty doesn’t bother me, at least not yet. But one thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is an increase in the number of funerals I’ve been attending. Thank goodness, most are friends and family thirty to forty years my senior, but even so, it causes me to reflect and think about life.
Last week I attended a funeral for a man I’d known for thirty-three years. His name was Ernie, and he was a part of the church I started attending when I was fifteen. Ernie wore many hats. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a worker, a neighbor, and a friend. But I remember him most as an outdoorsman. I remember his plaid shirts and his work boots, his beard, his van full of camping gear, and his roller skates. Yes, he was an outdoorsman who liked to roller skate! That’s probably how I knew Ernie best; Saturday nights as a teenager, I’d see Ernie at the roller rink, skating hand in hand with his wife.
At our church, Ernie began the Royal Rangers program, a boys program much like Boy Scouts. He had a reputation for knowing his stuff. He knew how to build a fire and cook over it. He built a teepee and camped in it. Weather was not a deterrent for him; he camped in the hot summer heat and into the early days of winter. He’d lived to tell and teach others how to survive the elements. Yet, some had learned they much prefer a cabin!
My son was in Royal Rangers for a while, and during that time I learned that Ernie’s reputation amongst the boys was much like that of Obi-wan Kenobi. The dedicated boys in the club were not only working for skill badges. They were working to progress far enough in the program to say they could keep up with Ernie.
Last Thursday, as my husband and I chose our seats in the church, I looked around the room and saw Royal Ranger uniforms speckled throughout the crowd. As the service began, two former students gave tributes, telling humorous stories and things they learned from watching this quiet man. At one point in the service, the minister spontaneously asked those who had come up through the program to stand. And then, together they recited their pledge: “With God’s help, I will do my best to serve God, my church, and my fellow man; to live by the Ranger Code; to make the Golden Rule my daily rule.” I dare say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Ernie’s legacy was standing in front of us: All these men he’d taught to respect God and nature.
Some say I think too much. But I say there is wisdom to be found when we reflect. After Ernie’s funeral, I thought about how often we strive for platforms and titles. Vanity, vanity, vanity! But if we are hoping to leave a legacy, the lesson is learned from watching those like Ernie. He took his passion for nature and let it grow into sharing with others what he’d learned. He started right where he was.
Sometimes I feel lost in the crowd. Sometimes what I do seems insignificant. I bet I’m not the only one who feels that way.
I wonder if Ernie ever felt that way?
Think about your passions and your joys.
Your neighborhood and community need you to be you. There is no one else who can fill that spot.
Ernie didn’t love nature so that others would follow. His love for nature caused others to follow. Legacies aren’t solicited; they’re earned.
What do you love? What comes natural to you?
Bloom where you are planted, and the harvest will come back to you.